I once worked for a man who ran chuckwagon ponies and every summer he would go to every rodeo he could to race those ponies and his chuckwagon for the thrill, for the prize money, and frankly mostly for the huge drunk up that would follow each race. I was his faithful squire, driving to the rodeo grounds after many a weekend and searching for him among the piles of horse shit and hay, I’d find him and gently protect his throbbing head as I lifted him out of the place he passed out and walk him back to the truck for the trip home. That was of course after I made sure that the horses were taken care of and fed, and that all the gear had been loaded up properly so that the precious cargo would make it safely back to the stable. The comedy show (for me) would start when I would drive up to the house to unload him, and his wife would come out in all her stereotypical glory from working in the kitchen to lay on the tongue lashing as thick as could possibly be done. If you watch any TV show or movies about drunken cowboys coming home, this is where that script was developed. I wish I could remember even half the lines. They were beyond Mastercard…you know…. priceless!
After I would drag him home and get him to be taken care of by his wife, my job became the horses and gear. But I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that those horses came first, and my very status in the eyes of my boss depended on knowing and doing everything I was supposed to for those horses. There is an irony in the whole situation. I never grew up around horses. We never owned a single horse on our farm. So everything I learned about them, I learned from my new boss. The grooming, the feeding, the bridling and hitching, all of it new to me and I learned the important differences between husbandry of cattle and other farm animals and that of chuckwagon ponies. Horses have not only physical attributes, but unlike the very limited “personality” profiles you would find in cattle, and for sure in chickens (that’s another 6 beer story for sure), horses are each as individually different as people. And one character in the pony corral on this team stood out above all the rest.
Dick was a character. Knowing my boss, Dick got his name because he earned it. Scrawny and small, this little character was ounce for ounce the most animated of the bunch! He was always the one screaming in the barn, pounding his hooves as I would get the feed ready, chewing the boards around his stall and generally disturbing the peace at every occasion. If I didn’t know better, the rest of the team seemed to always be looking at him and thinking the general thought, “what is your problem bud?” None of the other horses would be making any fuss. I will never forget the day that sealed the deal with me as far as understanding why Dick got his name. It was a regular feeding, with the exception that the team was getting a new high energy feed to get ready for a big race. Because it was a new feed, my boss was there doing the feeding. As he moved up beside Dick to put the feed into his manger in front of him, Dick hauled off and bit my boss right on the most tender part of the back of his arm. Right on the tricep. What would have melted most men to a puddle of sobs simply enraged my boss, who swung around with one of his large enclosed fists and clobbered Dick on the nose so hard that at first his knees buckled and then he reared up and pulled so hard that he tore his halter and escaped the barn with my boss yelling profanities and running after him.
After the noise and confusion settled down, I had a chance to fix the broken things (it was my job). When the opportunity came up, I asked the boss, “Why do you keep such a problem animal on the team?” It was then that I received the best lesson in cowboy logic that I’ve ever gotten. This is what he said (and I’ve left a few of the cowboy flowers he loved to make a bouquet out of when he said something passionately…or just always). “That little shit of a horse is just what the team needs. He’s smaller than the rest, but doesn’t know it! And he has so much G.D. attitude that even though he should be slower, he’s the one who gets everybody so riled up that they wanna run. Damnit, he’s so skiddish that he runs away when he farts. If I didn’t have him on the team, the rest of them would be such lazy bastards that I’d be last every single race! I need him on my team.”
In a society so fixated on transformation and a jealousy of what others are and have, we’ve forgotten that we should value differences and uniqueness. Am I saying that we should all be Dick’s and hurt those around us while we constantly create drama? I think you missed the point of the story if you feel that’s what I said. We should look for ways to find everyone a place to contribute to the team. And as far as each of us as individuals, we can be less concerned about transforming ourselves to what we feel others expect of us and draw on everything about ourselves, even that which we feel is not good, and channel it for the good of the team. The whole act of getting into the newest workout or latest health juice that will transform us often starts from a place way different than it should. Being dissatisfied with yourself is far different than wanting to make the best of what and who you are. I’m all over that. That makes sense. But too often we just want what we don’t have and what we think someone else has. We toss aside a real hard look at ourselves, doing our best to be honest about what we have that could be used for good. Take a good look at who and what you are and be okay with making that work for the good. Forget about transformation!
And remember, we aren’t animals, so we don’t need to be Dicks.