Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Of Teeth and Nails

Word Counters is a bit long-winded today...


He was beautiful and he knew it. The favoured mount of the master, he was usually found prancing his way about the countryside, tossing his gleaming black mane and/or tail and collecting admiring glances from human and animal alike. But did all the adulation make him humble? Or kind? Nope.

 

Instead, he was self-centered and narcissistic. Caring only for himself and his own wants and desires. Okay, yes, he submitted fairly willingly to the demands of his master, but let’s face it—only because to refuse would have had some fairly serious and decidedly unpleasant consequences. Yikes.

 

One day he was engaged in what had become common. Prancing around and/or eating and/or making fun of the lessor animals. Were they happy about this last activity? Well let’s just say the sheep, chickens and pigs had banded together and were assuaging hurt feelings by inventing new and colourful metaphors.

 

And it was at precisely that moment that The Rat wandered into the farmyard. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to know that Mr. Rat was preceded by a reputation garnered by centuries and generations of his ‘sort’. An unsavoury one, if I’m forced to make a judgement.

 

Sadly, this name, though not earned by him personally, would prevent his being quickly (or even possibly) accepted by the general population of the aforementioned farmyard. And I’m talking about the ‘nice’ sheep, chickens and pigs. With Mr. Stuck-Up on the far side of the paddock he hadn’t a hope.

 

But Mr. Rat was a clever fellow and, if anything, determined. Going from one group to another, he politely introduced himself. “Hello, my friends,” he would say. “As you can probably guess, I am new to the area and wondered if there was a possibility of comfortable lodgings and perhaps gainful employment hereabouts?”

 

Whereupon (good word) he was met, invariably, with either stoney stares or outright violence. Between you and me, those pig and sheep’s hooves and chicken beaks can do real and lasting damage when wielded by those in possession and with a modicum of knowledge. Not the most pleasant  of introductions.

 

Repulsed at last, Mr. Rat found himself in the paddock with Mr. Stuck-Up. Perhaps a bit of clarification is in order at this juncture. Mr. Stuck-up wasn’t our central character’s real name. Instead, he had been given the moniker: Big Jim. Or ‘Jimmy’ to his friends. If he had any.

 

Back to my story . . . Mr. Rat doffed his hat (yes, he had a hat) and bowed most respectfully to the glorious and imposing vision that stood aloof and majestic, and whose satin coat and long, flowing locks gleamed in the loving, golden caress of the afternoon light.

 

“Good day to you, Kind Sir,” the rat said. He then followed up this greeting with his introduction and question. All of which were, at first, simply ignored by Big Jim, who remained standing on his little hillock, staring fixedly at some fair, far-away spot only he was privy to. 

 

Then, Mr. Rat had the temerity to repeat himself—speaking just a bit louder in case it proved that the magnificent animal before him was merely hard of hearing. Big Jim, insulted at the suggestion of less-than-perfection, immediately reacted. With flint-hard hooves. And pin-point, rat-mashing accuracy.

 

He missed, however. (I know you were probably concerned.) But his message was well received. Mr. Rat knew beyond a doubt that he was unwelcome. Amazing how a set of hooves threatening to dance a tattoo upon your very mortal parts can strongly suggest a certain . . . attitude.

 

He retired to the No Rat’s Land between Big Jim’s paddock and that area claimed by the other denizens of the barnyard. And there he stayed, to their mutual disgust and equal disregard, feasting upon whatever grains and slops they spilled. For a rat, a fair (and tasty) situation.

 

A few days after the advent of The Rat, as everyone called him, Big Jim, suddenly became lame. I probably don’t have to explain to you the horror with which such an occurrence is viewed. A horse, as you know, is only as good as its feet and/or legs. 

 

To say the master was concerned is a vast understatement. Farriers were called out. Veterinarians. Anyone with even a tidbit of knowledge of horses and their accompanying hooves. No cause could be found. Word began to be bandied about that Big Jim was going to be sold. For meat.

 

Big Jim was, justifiably, crushed. Standing on the far side of his paddock, he was no longer the proud animal he had been. Instead, he was the picture of despair. Now, instead of ‘gazing to impress’, he watched for the wagon he knew was coming. That would signal his doom.

 

“Excuse me,” a small voice spoke.

Big Jim looked down.

Mr. Rat was standing respectfully at his feet.

Too sore and sad to even react, Big Jim merely looked at him. “What?”

“May I look?”

“What can you do?”

Mr. Rat shrugged. “I have strong teeth. Perhaps I can help.”

 

Big Jim merely shrugged and jerked his head toward the offending hoof. “Do what you want,” he said, shortly.

The rat walked around to the large hoof, propped up on a small mound of dirt. He sniffed with his little rat nose. He peered with his sharp little rat eyes.

 

“I think I’ve found the problem, he said, finally.

Big Jim stared at him. “Really. When all the doctors searched and couldn’t find anything, you—a rat—has done what none of them could do.”

The rat nodded. “You have a nail up in your hoof. Sharp. With no head.”

 

Big Jim stared some more. “How could I have picked up a nail?”

Mr. Rat shrugged. “I don’t know. Prancing?”

If Big Jim had not been completely covered with hair, he probably would have blushed convincingly. “Ummm . . .” he said.

“I can get it out,” said Mr. Rat.

 

“Seriously?”

“It will take others to help me, but if we all pull together, it should work.”

Big Jim was justifiably cheered by the little rat’s words. I mean, we’re talking about his life here. 

“I don’t ask much . . .” Mr. Rat said.

Big Jim looked at him. “Much?”

 

“Just a bed and some of your grain and a little respect.”

Big Jim thought about it. For .38 seconds. “Done! What do I need to do?”

“Well, first of all, I will need to find some help.” The rat looked around. “Do you suppose the other animals will assist?”

 

Big Jim thought about that. He thought—with shame—about the times he had made fun of the other animals. Would they help someone who had been nothing but cruel to them? Would he, given the same scenario? He doubted it. He had never thought about anyone else in his life.

 

“You can ask,” he told the little rat.

Mr. Rat scurried off and, amazingly, came back with a long line of animals prepared to help.

Humbled, Big Jim looked at them. “I am sorry for the way I treated you,” he said. “And I thank you with all my heart.”

 

They smiled wide animal smiles. “I guess we all have things we’re ashamed of. We regret our treatment of our rat friend here. Maybe our working together will signal a needed change in all of us.”

Big Jim nodded. “I’d like that.”

“Let’s all get to work,” Mr. Rat said.

 

He walked back around to the injured foot and nibbled at a spot with his sharp, strong teeth. Slowly, the end of a long, thin nail was revealed. Finally, there was enough exposed that he could grip it. He signalled to the other animals to grab onto each other. 

 

One by one, they grabbed tails with their teeth and beaks.The last one, a large, fine sheep, grabbed Mr. Rat’s tail. Then they pulled.

And pulled.

And pulled some more.

Slowly, inch by inch, a long, thin nail was extracted from the hoof.

Steadily, they pulled, until it was freed.

 

Mr. Rat dropped it to the ground and they all gathered around for a look.

“Ew,” said one of the chickens.

“In a word,” Big Jim said.

“How does your foot feel?” asked one of the sheep.

Big Jim carefully lowered his hoof to the ground. “Better!” he said.

“Yay!”

 

Big Jim recovered. And wasn’t sold. 

He lived a long, happy life, right there on the farm.

But from that day on, he, and all the other animals, treated the others with respect.

Because they had discovered that each of them needed each other. From the tall. To the small.


Thank you for the lesson, Mr. Rat. Jimmy and his friends are forever grateful. 



Today’s post is a writing challenge! Each month one of the participating bloggers picks a number between 12 and 50. All bloggers taking part that month are then challenged to write using that exact number of words in their post either once or multiple times. 

 

This month’s word count number is: 50

It was chosen by: Me!

 

At the end of this post, you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Keep the party going!

 

Baking In A Tornado

Messymimi’s Meanderings


5 comments:

  1. I could not love this story and it's lesson more. Especially right now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If only we could learn from this. All of us.

    ReplyDelete
  3. All I could think is that, if this was in the present day, this may have had a far different ending. We're in trouble without many good chickens, sheep..I mean, people. We all need each other, people!

    ReplyDelete

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