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

We have pet names for most everything these days, not just our pets. I’ve met a dog named Popcorn and a cat named Speedbump (because all he did all day was lay around.) I’ve had a barber named Curly, who was bald as a cue ball, a friend named Flip Flop who always wear sandals, and I know a rancher with one eye named Picasso. I don’t know what his other eye is called. I renamed the town near the ranch (Morro Bay) Moron Bay because of how terrible the tourists drive there.

My wife has one of the prettiest names in the English language, Diane, but I usually refer to her as “Di.” If I call out for her in public, I’m sure there are listeners who think I’m a mass murderer. She has pet names for me which I can’t repeat here. My teammates on the basketball and cross country teams in high school called me Fuzzy because I always wore my hair short, and, believe me, I was glad to leave that name behind me when I left for college. Baxter Black calls me O Bing because he thinks I write like O Henry, and Bing is a reference to the “pit” in cherries. At least that’s where I think he got the name, but who knows with Baxter the way his brain works.

A bit of trivia: did you know that the Sheriff in the Johnson County Wars was named Red Angus? And that was 16 years before the breed was imported into America.

We lived in Australia for a year, and I liked their custom of naming their houses. It was common to see a handmade sign with the name of the house on it. So naturally, we named the house we’ve lived in for 35 years BlueView. While in Australia, we bought a used GM car which was basically a box with a motor in it, that we named “Whitey”. Guess what color it was. Admittedly, it wasn’t very creative, and we probably should have called it Boomerang because it kept returning back to the dealer to get fixed.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

Ranchers are fond of naming things. They name their ranch, their pastures, their corrals, and nearly every geographical feature. Although we usually don’t name every cow on the place, we are fond of naming the ones that find a way to wiggle into our hearts or our foreboding. Our favorite cow was called Paint, and the one who frustrated us the most by single-handedly destroying every squeeze chute, loading ramp, and a fence was a bull named Root Canal. I named our famous wonder horse Gentleman because there was already a Lady on the premises when we got there.

We actually don’t name things; they name themselves, as the following story illustrates.

I’ve written hundreds of feature stories about ranches all over the country, and most of them I visited in person. One of my most memorable visits was when I wrote about a Simmental breeder in Texas 40 years ago. He had a file box in his truck with a card for every cow, complete with a photo. Nowadays, with cell phones, that would be easy, but can you imagine doing that with hundreds of cows and a Kodak Instamatic®?

As we were touring his pastures, I admired the beautiful ring he had on his finger. It had the Masonic symbol in gold against a black background that was flanked by two huge diamonds. He said it had only come off his finger one time since his grandfather had given it to him.

“When was that?” I asked.

“I was artificially inseminating a few cows when I ran out of plastic arm sleeves. So I wrapped my arm with Saran Wrap® and used one of those cheap plastic gloves from Harbor Freight. But when my arm came out of the cow, the plastic glove and my ring had been left behind. So we put the cow in a small pen and watched her manure every day, waiting for the ring to show up. We thought we’d lost it for good when a year later, my wife noticed something sparkling in an old cow chip. Sure enough, with a little delicate digging, we found the ring, and ever since we’ve called that cow Lucy In The Pie With Diamonds.”