Jigger Jesperson was a white-haired, skinny fellow who showed up at our friends’ ranch looking for work, insisting he was “the best cow hand in captivity.”
He looked hungry, so our friend Bill agreed to take him on for a month or so. It was spring calving time, and they could use the help. A favorite cow country proverb is, “Anybody can winter a herd of cows, but it takes a cowman to spring them” alluding to the calving season difficulties for mothers, their babies and the cowboys helping them.
It turned out Jigger could handle driving the team pulling the feed wagon, could ride through the cow herd horseback and bring in the springer cows, ready to give birth, but he was pretty much worthless at other chores — like repairing fences, hauling water, fixing flat tires, shoeing horses.
Bill found a job Jigger could handle — cleaning corrals. He didn’t do very well at it because it was obvious he didn’t wanta do it, but Bill was adamant.
We, along with our neighbors, recently had gotten that television country folks can receive by satellite. Although our family, not being accustomed to television, mostly watched only the video cattle auctions, Jigger couldn’t tear his eyes off it, especially the news.
Every night after supper he watched it. Then all the next day he’d repeat all the so-called news to everybody whether or not they wanted to hear it. He especially liked the politicians and their rhetoric.
Gradually, after a couple of weeks, he began not liking them so much, and watching different news shows for different “takes” on the day’s happenings.
He began making comments like, “It’s never those guys’ fault when stuff goes wrong” and “I thought it was sinful to lie — especially big obvious lies” and “Do the schools not teach how our government is supposed to work anymore? I barely passed high school, but I made it through civics class.”
Meanwhile, Jigger’s work got less and less acceptable.
Bill sent him to the south pasture one day to clean out the cattle’s drinking tub and make sure the windmill was working. He made it back to the house just before dark, and he was a muddy mess. The pickup he was driving was covered in mud, too, like it had probably spent time stuck.
Bill waited patiently for the explanation.
“How deep is that well, anyway?” Jigger wanted to know. “The wind got up and I couldn’t catch the rope to the mill’s tail to stop it from pumping. It ran water everywhere.”
When Bill pointed out the well depth had nothing to do with it, Jigger said, “Well, I don’t know what happened, but it sure wasn’t my fault.”
Bill let it go, but a couple of days later when Jigger messed up on pulling a calf and let both calf and cow die, that was it.
When an explanation was demanded, Jigger thought awhile and finally offered, “Mistakes were made.”
No question. Jigger had learned “politician speak.”
Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at: email@example.com