A Cold Outhouse Cleaning Day

I grew up in Las Cruces, NM. In the winter the grass was yellow. In summer it turned brown. I had a used 1956 Ford. I never put antifreeze in it. My thrifty teenage logic said, “It never freezes here…” But of course it did. The freeze plugs would pop out. However, you could buy a lot of freeze plugs for the price of a gallon of antifreeze!

Once or twice a winter it would snow an inch and a half. They’d have three or four wrecks, call school off and it would melt by noon! Then my life took a turn. I went to Colorado to veterinary school and eventually moved to the high desert country of Idaho, Nevada and Eastern Oregon. For 25, years I lived “up north.”

Breakin’ ice, putting on tire chains, checkin’ pens in the mud, calvin’ in three feet of snow, watching the vaccine freeze in the syringe, buildin’ fires next to the squeeze chute, laying on some windblown hillside, stripped to the waist, my arm up the back of a snow-covered cow trying to replace a uterine prolapse and reminding myself, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A few years ago I moved back to the southwest, mostly to take care of my “old folks.” Last month we had two inches of snow at my place. They called off school, had three or four wrecks and it melted by noon. The puppies played in it till they wore out. The horses even joined in the frivolity. I had three out-of-school teenage boys over to help me tip the outhouse for its decennial mucking. They took to the ridges and canyons building snowmen, snowball fighting, and reveling in this uncommon gift for kids along the Mexican border. None had waterproof boots, ear flaps, coveralls, scarves or common sense. “Cold?” Naw, havin’ too much fun. Attempts were made to sled, roll, or snowboard in the canyon drifts. Snow itself does not offer much protection from jagged rocks, cat claw, barrel cactus, crucifix thorn and mesquite staubs. So, neither, as you might guess, did trash can lids, sheets of cardboard, or in one case, a plastic water trough that did a complete flip, dumping its navigator and banging the captain on the back of the head!

But it was a great day. I finished up by the wood stove, counting my blessings and never once thought about the economic depression. Oh, and we got the outhouse mucked out and tipped back on its frame.

I don’t know if there’s a correlation between the outhouse cleaning and the expulsion or rejection of tax-dodging, graft-seeking, truth-bending politicians. Probably not…I only have to do the outhouse every 10 years.

Baxter Black is a cowboy, poet, humorist, and former large animal veterinarian based in Benson, Arizona –www.baxterblack.com

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