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Git Home!

Table of Contents | Git Home!


House guests and humans.
By Lee Pitts

The words “single family dwelling” don’t come close to describing the homes of country folks. Our scrapbooks are filled to overflowing with photos of ungrateful house guests we have provided free bed and board through the years.

When a rancher queries the wife, “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” he is more apt to be referring to a newborn calf than a business associate. As everyone knows far too well, having company requires great sacrifice. I too like to cozy up on a rug in front of a fire but the hearth in my home is hogged by animals. We couldn’t use the oven for a week because of the litter of premature bunnies that found warmth there. I’ve never been able to relax in a bathtub because that’s reserved for thawing out calves. Despite having a house big enough to bed down an entire herd, there have been times when even it was too small, and the overflow spilled into the garage. We raised a calf there once we named “Two Car” because that’s how many vehicles it displaced.

At lambing time it got so crowded in our “animal house” that there was hardly room for the dog. More sheep have spent the night under our roof than in-laws. Not that I’m complaining, I’ve had human house guests that needed dipping more than most sheep. The lamb that couldn’t walk and hung in a sling on our back porch was less work than most people visitors. We raised a motherless fawn on a bottle that was less dependent on us for its meals than “dear” relatives. Animal guests don’t raid the refrigerator, dirty laundry or leave a ring around the tub. At least not all of them do.

I know there are other folks who put out the welcome mat for critters. A Colorado rancher sent me photos of the buffalo he raised in his home, although I’m not sure I’d go that far. In trying to sleep I never did get both eyes closed worrying what the buffalo might do if it broke out of its cardboard box on the back porch.

City folks find such hospitality towards animals disgusting. I’ve had a man who smokes stinky cigars so smelly they’d gross out a pig, comment on the “sheepy” smell in my home. Stockmen are seen as peculiar by people whose pets sleep with them. I have a friend who never heard a toilet flush till he was 40 years old who now spends a fortune on kitty litter so his cat doesn’t have to go outside to use the facilities.

I read where prior to 1900 it was a common practice in the Netherlands for people and their animals to live communally in a home with no division between them. The barn was contiguous with the living quarters and to say that the peasants lived like animals was a great compliment. Sharing their home with cows and showing how well their animals lived was considered a status symbol; the 1990s equivalent to a Rolex watch, although a little more fragrant I’d imagine.

My wife and I lived in a house like that once, on a ranch we were leasing. There was one abandoned bedroom that was closed off from the rest of the house because the roof leaked and the floor slanted. As sometimes happened in the cattle business, we had an orphaned calf once we couldn’t get mothered up and for a few days we let it stay in that abandoned bedroom. Until we had some unexpected company. I have never admitted this till now but we hurried and cleaned up the room, moved in a bed and kicked the calf outside into the yard.

If fish and house guests start to stink after the third day these visitors were absolutely putrid. A week had passed and they showed absolutely no sign of moving on. We were considering just giving them the place when the orphaned calf saved the day. He spent most days looking forlornly through the bedroom window and our visitors made the comment one day that his behavior made them feel a little uncomfortable.

“Oh, he probably just wants his old room back,” I casually remarked.
We haven’t seen hide nor hair of those house guests since that day they left in such a hurry.

Lee Pitts writes from Morro Bay, Calif. His books, "People Who Live At the End of Dirt Roads" and "Back Door People" can be purchased by calling 1-800-RANGE-4-U.

"I have a friend who never heard a toilet flush till he was 40 years old who now spends a fortune on kitty litter so his cat doesn’t have to go outside to use the facilities."

Table of Contents | Git Home!

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