By Tibor Machan: Freedom New Mexico columnist
Many country people are afflicted with a strange ailment I call “Bet I Got Up Earlier Than You Syndrome.” The number of hours they beat the sun up is their measure of worth. They go to great lengths to prove it, too.
The radio is turned on full blast so everybody in the house hears the daylight edition of the market report whether they want to or not. They call everyone they can think of just so they can say, “Did I wake you up?” If they did awaken the callee, they can’t hide their glee. I think they actually keep score of how many they roust out of bed.
I even had a country newspaper editor call me once to give me the go-ahead on a story — at daylight. My mumbled “Hello” was greeted with, “Woke you up, didn’t I? Heh heh.”
My father-in-law used to crank the radio’s volume as loud as possible, slam every door at least twice, stumble out to the barn in the dark to “check on things” whether they needed it or not, then stomp back into the house, noisily put the coffee on and drop the skillet at least twice before starting to scramble eggs.
When everyone else had given up and gotten up — about daylight — he’d go back to bed and take a nap!
At fall gathers ahead of shipping time, here’s often what happens. The cowboys, shivering in the cold darkness, saddle up and try to understand which way the boss is waving for them to go. They can’t, so they just head for the back side, hoping their horses don’t step into gopher holes or that arroyo they know is there someplace.
When they blunder into the fence, they turn around and sit — and sit — till there’s enough light to tell which are rocks and which are cattle. I know one top hand who got promoted to foreman on a very big ranch. His first day at headquarters, he went down to the corrals a little before sunup. All the hands were standing around waiting for him.
One unfortunate fellow with more mouth than brains said, “I never heard of a foreman that couldn’t get up before noon.”
The new foreman replied, “We’re here to get some work done. You guys have been spending the first three hours after daylight every day straightening out the messes you made stumbling around in the dark. And you, Mr. Mouth, can draw your pay.”
Years later, those cowboys admitted the boss was right, and said they’d never worked for a better hand.
Remember that country editor who called me? After I’d sent in my story — and gotten paid — I got hold of his home number and called him at 11 o’clock one night. He first dropped the phone and then croaked, “Hello.”
I said in my sweetest little fake voice, “Oh my goodness, did I wake you up? I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your paper.”