Bull Tales

Jun 17, 2011
Ranch conversations

For us, this has been a rugged winter.

I know this because I have my tractor mechanic’s phone number memorized. This is not speed dial—we’re talking memorized and available at a moment’s notice. In my old age, I might forget my own phone number, but his is burned in my memory.

One day, he and I were sipping coffee at a restaurant in town and discussing options for my aged backhoe.

We were down to the dregs in our cups when my ATV mechanic entered the room. These men are distant cousins and familiar with each other’s respective businesses.

“I hear you’ve been spending a lot of time at his place,” the ATV mechanic said, pointing at me.

“Yeah, I have,” the tractor mechanic replied, shaking his head, “the windshield time’s eating us up.”

“So have I,” the ATV mechanic said, “maybe we should get him to time his breakdowns and we could carpool out to his place.”

I was tired and stretched about as thin as an overly tight fan belt. My fatigued brain started figuring on how I could time wrecks— wondering if I could pull it off.

It took a moment before I realized that was the silliest thought I’d had in some time. It became obvious exhaustion was an issue.

So I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by a lecture when I reported to my doctor the following week.

“Stress kills,” said Doctor Beth.

She explained the biology, physiology and pathology of it. She said I needed to do something about my stress levels. I needed a break; there was no way around it.

“The cure is up to you,” she stated; “if you’re in doubt about how to manage stress, then you should take a nap.”

I must have rolled my eyes in denial as I was leaving Doctor Beth’s office.

“Do you need permission to take a break?” she asked, already knowing the answer, “Well, here it is.”

She scribbled a prescription and handed it to me—it said:

“Lie on the grass and look up at the sky and trees—3X per week, half-hour each.”

On the bottom of the form, in the spot where it says, “refill(s)”, she made a small infinity sign.

On the inaugural of my stress-relief program, I hopped on my now-running ATV and headed for our canyon. Meadowlarks were claiming territory around me and a gentle, high desert breeze filled my nose with the smell of sun-warmed sage and juniper.

I found a comfortable spot, stretched out—and fell asleep.

As I awakened, I noticed the meadowlarks were no longer singing. Then I felt a brief, slight chill of what seemed like the sun going behind a cloud. It happened again. And again....

Opening my eyes, I saw three buzzards circling directly over my head like planes stacking up at the airport. To them I must have looked like the carcass du jour. I had never thought of myself as the main course in a buzzard banquet.

Affronted, I decided they needed to be taught a lesson.

Quietly, watching through slitted eyes, I planned to lure them to the ground and, suddenly leap up while waving my arms and hollering. It seemed a fair exchange for my interrupted harmony and serenity session.

Mother Nature and many, many years of evolution have taught buzzards to keep an eye open for signs of breathing. That’s how they stay alive. Think about it from their point of view— food that doesn’t breathe can’t eat the buzzard.

The buzzards and I had a waiting game going. They were going to circle until I expired and I had no plans for expiration. This wasn’t helping my stress levels, so I jumped up and watched them glide gracefully out of the canyon.

About a week later, I spotted Doctor Beth in town and told her the story about being buzzard bait. She laughed until her eyes watered. I wasn’t sure what I expected from her—an adjustment on the relaxation program, or perhaps, just sympathy. She gave neither.

“It doesn’t matter where you relax, but you’ll get more out of it if you look less like a carcass in a canyon,” she said. “Let me know how it goes.”

“OK,” I said, meekly. — D. “Bing” Bingham [Bing Bingham is a writer, rancher and storyteller. He keeps his prescription for stress relief in his office on the wall near his desk. If you have a story to pass along, contact him at bing@bingbingham.com.]