Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Animal Wrangler

Someone once asked me if travel improves a person’s behavior. The answer is no, but it does spread it across a wider area. If your personality is just too big for where you live, a trip across the country might give it enough room to make it useful rather than a liability.

I once worked as an assistant for an animal caretaker at a circus. One morning when we were stopped at a small town out West, a giraffe escaped. I was sent to find it and bring it back. I had no wrangling experience whatsoever, and had no idea how I would capture the creature if I did locate it. I needed the job though, so I went out. I asked everyone I met if they had seen a giraffe, but folks just gave me queer looks. Finally I realized that no one out there knew what a “giraffe” was. When I told a cowboy that I was looking for a long-necked, piebald calf, he nodded and showed me where I could find it.

“I figured him for a maverick ‘cause he had no brand,” he said. “I thought about adding him to my herd, but he was grazing on a tree. There just ain’t enough of those kind of tall greens on the trail to Abilene to feed such a particular eater.”

“That’s why folks give them to us,” I told him solemnly. “Because of their tree-eating proclivities. They’re unusual here, but as common as cats in upstate New York, and a whole lot peskier. They were imported from Africa to trim trees, but they got out of hand. The apple farmers hate them. They reproduce like cats, too. I’d keep a close eye on your calves this spring. If you see any with long necks, wire Mr. Barnum and he’ll take them off your hands the next time he comes through town.”

“We ain’t got no call for tree trimming out here,” he said. “There’s so little shade in these parts, I’d hate to see it all get et up. Thanks for the warning.” He was so worried that he roped the giraffe for me. I returned with it two hours after I’d left. My boss was very impressed.

“You have a real way with animals,” he said.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I think I’m better with people.”

copyright ©2010 Laurie J. Anderson, all rights reserved.

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