I once had a friend who loved to cow hunt. Leonard loved cow hunting better than anything. Sleeping under the stars. Campfire cuisine. Saturday nights at the Bull's Head Saloon.
A cattle man by trade and a slave driver by sport, my granddad spent most of his time moving cattle from one pasture to the other for apparently no other reason than to be moving them from one pasture to another. What time he wasn't moving them every which a way, he was working on getting his tractors stuck in the muck.
You ain't seen “stuck” unless you've seen a tractor stuck in Florida's muck. There's practically no way to get it out short of taking the tractor apart piece by piece. There have been instances where farmers have abandoned them and gotten into the tourist attraction business and charging $10 for a tour of the area's stuck-in-the-muck tractors.
Fifty dollars for a year's pass.
“Get your tickets here,” they'd holler as they stand on the side of the roads. “Shuttle leaves in 10 minutes to see some of the most amazing stuck-in-the-muck tractors you ever laid your eyes on!Expensive tractors, once-beautiful pieces of machinery reduced to nothingness by muck like you've never seen before!”
Of course many folks had never seen muck. Most people driving Florida's roads are northerners who haven't seen much of anything of consequence anyway, much less muck. Mention the word “muck” to a northerner and the first thing he'll do is giggle. Chances are as someone passes by just when the word is mentioned in an innocent conversation, the speaker will be accused of using inappropriate language.
Speech impaired folks have been known to innocently bring up “muck” in a conversation, and end up getting into a fight with northerners who, as any southerner knows, teethed on “the other” four-letter word.
Anyway, Leonard loved to “cow hunt,” which is another often confused expression.
“Cow hunting” in Florida isn't the same as “hunting” in Mississippi. Hunting in Mississippi involves the slaughter of innocent and defenseless animals for no apparent reason other than to be able to say, “Sho' 'nuf did, Billy Joe! I done kilt me a biggun'.”
Cow hunting in Florida means to find the cows, gather them in one location, and then move them to another location for the sole purpose of moving them from one location to another. And once you finish shuffling the cattle, you go find a tractor and some muck and you work on creating yet another tourist attraction.
The only thing about cow hunting that didn't suit Leonard was the lack of proper restroom facilities in the middle of a “hunt,” which is when Mother Nature generally paid Leonard a visit.
He never accepted the primitive conditions of the woods, but when nature called, we veterans of the cow hunt had to resort to primitive solutions, as in the use of Spanish moss in place of toilet...ahem...“tissue.” It was either use an appropriate amount of moss, or ride solo at the back of the herd.
Leonard was a good sport about it, though. When required he learned to distinguish between “clean” moss and “dirty” moss, which was bad to be infested with red bugs that could cause a lingering discomfort to the derriere.
One day, he and I went to eat lunch at a local dive in Wahneta, Fla.,where the personnel didn't place a great deal of emphasis on cleanliness...especially in the bathroom. Not only did it always smell like a herd of bulls' behind, there was never any soap, a way to dry your hands or, most importantly, toilet...ahem...“tissue.”
But it was the food we were after.
Wouldn't you know it. As we were finishing a plate of really amazing red beans and rice, Leonard received nature's call. Upon his return, he just stood there and said, “We better be going...RIGHT NOW!”
“No, Leonard,” I replied. “Just sit down a few more minutes and let's have a cup o' coffee.”
“We better be going...RIGHT NOW!”
“What's your hurry, man? We've had some really great food, we've got a little time off work and tomorrow's payday. What more could you want?”
As he sprinted for the exit, I heard him holler, “MOSS!”
Leonard rode back to the herd in the back of the truck.