Girls, plastic collars, zip ties and duct tape

Sixteen-year-old Ben just came home from a 4-H leadership conference in Fort Collins. He had looked forward to it since last year when he met a bunch of friends and found that there is, indeed, life beyond Hotchkiss. Even “girl” life. That was particularly exciting to him. So, when this years sign-up list was making the rounds, Ben’s name was first to hit the roster.

The event lasted three days, and for some young pups, it was the first time away from home. They frolic, drink Mountain Dew, Red Bull and other caffeine-based drinks, listen to inspiring lecturers and then drive the chaperones crazy until the wee hours. Usually, with a little therapy, the chaperones bounce back to normal within a week. Some remain abnormal the rest of their lives. (You know who you are…)

As is our tradition, all heck broke loose on our end as Ben left. Dad broke his hip; a goat got her leg broke by a dog; another goat got sick and Dad’s cows got a case of the “Happy Feet,” and were running loose apparently heading for a field trip in Montana.

The photo, at right, shows one of Dad’s cows deep in thought about navigating the most direct route to Montana.  Once the plotting is complete, the cows feet levitate and the rest is a blur of hooves, wringing tails and cow glee. 

Waiting to pick up Ben from his trip, I got a phone call from the vet saying he had a shot for the sick goat and that we could stop by to pick it up on our way home. Time did not allow me to alert Ben to the change in the usual drive home, so he launched into a full detailed account of the most exciting parts of his trip. That included one story after another involving girls.

“There were so many girls there that I couldn’t dance with them all,” he said. “They even came up to me asking me to save slow dances for them – but there were only about five slow dances and four times that many girls,” he continued, lamenting what he felt was a dire situation. He bounced from one story to another – all involving girls – when the turn to the vet’s office came into sight.

“What are you doing?” he panicked, searching the rear-view mirror for police lights. “Where are we going?”

“We’re going to the vet’s,” I said, matter of fact.

“Why? Did something bad happen?” he asked.

“No. I just figured it was time to get you neutered,” I answered. “You’ll stay home better, and all these thoughts of girls will vanish and you’ll be better able to focus on school and the important things,” I say, trying to keep a straight face.

Long pause.

“I know you’re kidding,” he said. “Besides, I have an opposable thumb. Whatever he does to the dog, I can undo.”

“That’s why they have zip-ties, duct tape and a plastic collar,” I say, unable to resist.

We arrived at the vet’s. Ben opted not to get out of the car despite the sweltering heat. I went inside thinking this would be a quick visit, but the vet’s wife was on the phone telling someone that their dog might need to have its eye removed. I could tell the call wasn’t going well. Then, Doc entered the operating room and appeared to be in a foul mood as well having just taken an eye out of a cow. I figured he could use a little comic relief, so I told him why Ben was holed up inside the car and wanted no part of seeing him today.

The vet chuckled, probably finding me sick and demented, but un-medicate-able. His wife opted to end the dog call before memories of her own son’s discovering girls caused her to chuckle inappropriately.

As the heat in the car increased, Ben’s grit expired and he reluctantly came inside. He quickly sat down, legs together, hands folded over his lap in a protective fashion.

Now, what I would have given to have the vet come out with a set of tweezers and a large plastic collar and tell Ben to get up on the table…but, no, my vet is soft.

“Don’t worry, Ben,” he said, smiling. “I’m on your side.”

“My mother is SOOO ornery,” said Ben. “She hasn’t seen me for three days. You’d think she’d be nice for, well, at least an hour. But noooooo. It’s like she’s stored up three days worth!”

“All women are that way, but the ones with horses are the worst,” said the vet, giving a sidelong glance at his wife. “There’s no cure, and it appears to be genetic. That means that you’ll probably behave the same way with your kids,” he said, smiling.