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Lee Pitts is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email them at

If it’s true that only the good die young, these two old codgers would live forever. On a summer day in the autumn of their lives, the ex-cattle trader and the ex-cattle buyer were rocking on the broken-down porch of the Cattlemen’s Old Age Home and Liar’s Club. They were bragging to one another and reminiscing about all the deals they’d made in the good old days. Those days that always remembered well.

“I sure got to you on that steer deal we made in ’68,” recalled the ex-cattle buyer.

“You just think you did,” replied the ex-trader. “What you didn’t know was the night before you weighed those steers was that I fed them all salt mix to make them thirsty so all they’d do all night was drink water and fill up. Those leppy steers were sure worth their salt.”

“Ha, ha,” laughed the cattle buyer. “What you didn’t know was I knew you would try something like that so I went out to your place the night before and sure enough I found your supply of salt mix and I poured a bunch of it in the water trough. There wasn’t a salt water fish alive that would have drank that water.”


The trader quickened his rocking pace. “You remember back in ’75 you told me specifically that it would be a daylight gather. And you’ll recall that you showed up at three-thirty in the morning to get me out of bed. But by the time I had breakfast and got my horse caught, it was nine-thirty before we ever got started weighing those cattle. In the meantime, those old steers were gorging themselves in the lushest little pasture that I’d been saving just for that purpose. That old horse that was hard to catch sure made me a lot of money that day. And you’ll no doubt recall that when we finally did get those stuffed beasts into the corral, there was plenty of feed in the bunks and clean water in the troughs.”

“Sure, I noticed,” admitted the old cattle buyer. “Do you really think it was an accident that those steers just happened to break out before we could weigh them? They were running around and losing weight all over the place. Did you think it just by chance that the cattle truck was four hours late? And when I told you to run those steers by me 17 times because I thought I saw a couple bad eyes, the only one with bad eyes was me. I could almost hear those cattle shrinking up,” chuckled the cattle buyer as he fingered his white cane.

“You really believed back in ’62 in our first big deal that an old cattle trader like me didn’t have a scale on my place? I knew you’d fall for that. And you never even suspected that the weighmaster at the grainery was my brother-in-law.”

“And you didn’t even notice the striking resemblance between me and the trucker, who just happened to be my brother. And did you notice that when we weighed the truck empty that my brother was still in the cab but right before we re-weighed after loading the steers that he got out of the truck, along with the rest of his family who were hiding in the sleeper? And did you notice that every one of them was a prime candidate for Weight Watchers?”

“Sure, I noticed all those things,” said the ex-cattle trader. “That’s why I told you about the nasty weather down the road and insisted that the trucker take my snow chains with him. That’s why I threw them on right before we weighed the loaded truck. I picked up a couple hundred pounds in weight with those chains.”

“I knew what you were doing. You never got your chains back either did you? The fact is I got such a good weigh-up on those cattle I just sent those steers directly to the auction, sold them, and managed to break even on the whole deal.”

But the ex-cattle trader, not to be outdone, figured he got the last laugh. “I knew what you were doing all the time. Who do you think bought them back?”