AS SOMEONE WHOSE LIFE HISTORY INCLUDES a diverse work history, eclectic interests and experiences, rural living, and a current career as an outdoors magazine editor, snippets of conversation heard around my house if taken out of context—or even in context—come out sounding unusual, to say the least.
Who but Zaidle actually goes out looking for dead armadillos?Photo by Don Zaidle
Some might label it “redneck”—even though I cannot recall ever saying, “Ive told you boys to flush that toilet; the dogs gotta drink out of there,” and never carried a fishing rod into Sea World—on reflection, I can see how the banter around the Zaidle household (usually animated with assorted grandchildren up to adult and old-enough-to-know-better ages) might give pause to the uninitiated. A few snippets for your enjoyment or revulsion:
“Be sure to water the possum.”
“Take the tractor down to the east stock tank and see if you can pull that cow out of the mud.”
“Go down back and shoot a hog; companys coming, so use something that wont blow too big a hole.”
“Dang it, boy, I told you to save those squirrel tails!” (For a couple of months thereafter, I routinely found fresh squirrel tails deposited on my computer keyboard.)
“Would somebody please get this bobcat out of the freezer! I cant find the roast!”
“You boys get that coyote skinned before it gets dark.”
“I dont care how cold it is outside, that dog cannot have her puppies in the living room!”
“Im going to the feed store. Anybody need anything?”
“Yeah, its roadkill, but I know its fresh because I hit it.”
“I know the washroom is flooded—but you are not going to drain it by shooting a hole in the floor!”
“But it was on sale!” (after my wife brought home a piano when I sent her to buy shirts; after I bought two cases of ammo in a caliber for which I do not own a gun; after one of my grandsons bought 11 oil filters for a vehicle we do not own)
“If I ever win the lottery, Im gonna buy me a big ranch somewhere.” (said by a friend/neighbor who lives on a 1700-acre ranch)
“Can I borrow your bull?”
“Go find the come-along; I need to skin a deer.”
“I shot a dove, Pop, but it fell in the tank and a turtle ate it.”
“Has anybody seen my rubber chicken?”
“Has anybody seen my skunk?”
“Has anybody seen Nanas pistol?”
“Has anybody seen my defibrillator?”
“Go see if I left my shotgun on the tractor.”
“I think Cub (chocolate Lab) ate your sunglasses.”
“The neighbor wants somebody to come over and shoot his bull—the black one, not the red one.”
“Jimmy! Move that fire engine out of the driveway!”
“I broke the lawnmower, Pop. I ran over one of your steel traps in the front yard.”
“I had to shoot it on the front porch, Pop—it was trying to get in the house.”
“Greg, get the bags of trash off the roof and take them to the burn barrel.”
Phone conversations are interesting, especially when you hear only half the conversation:
“Yes, hes here, but he is outside boiling a skull. Can I take a message?”
“Hes out helping a neighbor bury something they shot. Can I take a message?”
“Hes skinning a hog right now. Can I take a message?”
“If you do it the way I am telling you, the blood will drain faster.”
“I gave up trying to get blood stains out a long time ago.”
“Shoot it—but use a .22 so you dont blow up your mailbox.”
“Sure I know how to do a full-auto conversion. Why?”
“Hey, Wayne, do you know where I can find a roadkill armadillo? Cant be too messed up—all flattened or splattered or anything—just a nice clean kill, or maybe just messed up on one side, and its okay if its stiff or a little bloated. No, I am not drunk, I just need an armadillo. Can you help me or not?” (I needed it for a photo prop.)
Of course, some things are visual rather than audible—like the time we rigged up a 30-foot derrick out of old oilfield pipe mounted with chains and boomers to the loader bucket of the tractor, and jury-rigged a cathead winch with a bare rim mounted to one jacked-up wheel of a pickup, whereby to pull the submersible well pump and pipe for replacement. The wellhouse is near the roadway, and rubber-neckers nearly caused three accidents. One guy stopped and asked if we would do his next.
I once secured a toilet—and actual white porcelain toilet— about 10 feet up in a tree in my front yard and had a friend “sit on it” while wearing camo and wielding a bow. (It was for photos to illustrate an article about homemade tree stands.)
Then there was the time (pre-911) a gun trader friend spilled an entire bottle of Hoppes No. 9 all over his display table at a busy flea market, whereupon I donned a gas mask another friend was hawking and answered curious queries with, “Havent you heard about the chemical spill? Theres a guy on Row 3 selling masks. Better hurry.”
I once told several acquaintances that the circular “scope tattoo” wound above my eye was a chupacabra bite. Whats scary is that most of them believed it. I am still not sure if they believed in chupacabras or figured anything was plausible if I was involved.
While helping a neighbor unload 10,000 pounds of rancid corn dog batter mixed with wieners (feral hog bait), a spill covered me from head to toe in the stuff. I told my wife I had been to the Texas State Fair and Big Tex got drunk and barfed on me. When I took off my clothes (outside, of course) I discovered three wieners and a corn dog stick in places youd rather not find them.
House decor includes duck decoys with shot holes; steel traps; animal skins; miscellaneous taxidermy; animal skulls, skeletons, and antlers; fishing lures; a human skull; shadow boxes containing old paper hull shotgun cartridges, worn-out pocket knives, mushroomed bullets recovered from game, et al; and, of course, an electronic Big Mouth Billy Bass.
I stand firm that these utterances and circumstances are not redneck, but simply the natural result of self-reliance and good country living. I further assert defense in that much conversation involves oscilloscopes, frequency counters, and signal generators; the difference between pneumothorax and hemothorax; the relative merits of PHP and ASP software applications; and how to download and install open source software and why it is not pirating.
On the other hand, I shall never live down running outside in my boxer shorts and boots late one night, gun in hand, to investigate a suspicious noise—and the unidentified motorist passing by who yelled, “Get you clothes on, pervert!”
It was only a raccoon getting into the dog food barrel, too.