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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Guinea Hens and Hot Little Balls

After college and before marriage I worked for a cutting horse trainer in Patison, Texas.  I got to ride a lot of good horses and learned quite a bit.  But I was just the hired hand and that job description is an all encompassing one.  It ranged from riding two year olds and loping the older horses down for the head trainer, to fixing plumbing and doing some welding.  Now my skill level when it came to the last two was pretty limited, but I was passable.  My preferred title was the colt breaker and being young, ten feet tall and might near bullet proof…I did my dangest to make sure I was riding colts when the jobs that were beneath my skill level came up.  But, until we hired Newt, I was the guy that did the plumbing/welding jobs.

Newt Dobbs - Lonesome Dove

Now Newt was a different story.  That wasn’t his real name, of course, and to protect him a little…I’ll say his real name was Bob.  Bob showed up to work in a big floppy black felt hat.  It looked sorta like his dog had some time with it, because the edges had that chewed on look.  He was tall and lanky, kind of had that look of almost being starved to death (which I recognized because I was in that almost starved to death category myself!).  “Lonesome Dove” was on TV at the time and I think everyone in the country was watching it.  One of our customers took one look at Bob’s dog chewed hat and started calling him Newt.  Nicknames are a funny thing, the ones we despise the most are the ones that stick, because from the moment on….Bob became Newt.  Newt was a pretty good kid (I called him a kid because my Dad said anybody younger than you is a kid and after all he was a couple of years younger than me!), he tried hard and always put forth good effort.  No matter how he did the job, good or bad, he just looked like he was a day late and a dollar short.  He also became the guy who did all of the derogatory jobs, which was all of the jobs that were beneath my vast skill level.  He became the plumber/welder, which of course was just above the stall cleaner/cow feeders.

Once when we were getting ready for a weekend cutting that we always had in Patison, Newt was doing some welding on the pipe fence in the arena.  He had the welding truck pulled in, using all the tools that went along with being a welder.  On this particular truck the vise was always a source of consternation; the little balls on either end of the handle were always falling off, it could drive you crazy digging around in the dirt for them dadgum things.  After watching Newt dig around in the dirt for a while, the boss must have thought he was playing…so he headed over to do a little multi tasking.  One he needed to use the vise and second find out why this kid was still playing in the dirt.  At the same time, Newt had enough of those little balls.  So as the boss walked up, Newt grabbed his welding thingy (technical term there for anyone who is uninformed) and quick as a whistle…welded those little balls on either end of the handle, to the handle.  No more digging in the dirt for him!
If you know anything about welding…well it makes metal hot!  The boss, who had waited patiently for Newt to finish welding, almost immediately started toward the vise in order to use it.  I honestly don’t know what he was thinking, because he grabbed one of those little balls and discovered that it does not take long to look at hot iron!  You never heard such a fit of cussing and carrying on.  He discussed Newts heritage and for good measure started on mine.  The only reason I could see for him starting on me, must have been guilt by association.  My first thought was “you watched him weld it up and it was red when you touched it…why are you mad at us?”  You notice I said first thought, I liked my job and didn’t want (at that time) to get fired for pointing out how idiotic all of this was!  Once he calmed down, a little, his only statement was about birds….guinea’s to be exact.  He said, “like working around a bunch of guinea hens, you never knew what ya’ll are going to do next!”  That of course is like the pot calling the kettle black….he was the one who touched those hot little balls!

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