Chapter 17 - "Finally!"

For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the little bar and grill we waddled into that Tuesday morning, but I’ll never forget the experience. There were several elderly men sitting up at the bar slowly scratching their foreheads with cowboy hat in hand. There were casino arcades lining the back wall, a corkboard chuck-full of photographs showing hunters proudly sporting their kill, mounts of about every wild animal in those parts from mule deer to beavers, and a huge wood stove that kept the place cozy warm.

The minute we walked into the joint everyone stopped whatever they were doing and stared at us with a look that said, “Who the heck are you boys?” Fortunately, they knew our realtor and it wasn’t long before we were being introduced to retired ranchers and yesterday’s news. I don’t know if you’ve ever shaken hands with a farmer, but it’s more like shaking hands with a beast than a human. The texture, often, has moved beyond leather to something more akin to tree bark. More like hard maple than a soft maple. The fingers of these men are bloated like the Michelin tires mascot, minus the white marshmallow look. Thick calluses. Cracked fingernails. These hands have witnessed long days of honest toil. They are almost relics of antiquity, antiques from years gone by representing epochs of history never to be revisited in quite the same way. I get the feeling these days that farmers are of a more refined variety. Horses are replaced with quads, wooden fences are traded for flimsy electric upgrades, barns are exchanged for lean-to’s out in the open field, and pickup trucks are swapped for SUV’s. It’s a new world order in the agriculture industry…something more domesticated. You have a better chance of meeting a cowboy with a Blackberry phone than a horse. Thus, cowboys with crusty calluses are a dying breed.

We sat down at a table and I grabbed a menu to check out the steak selections availed to me. My eyes moved down the list from the $12 ribeyes to the $15 strips to the $18 T-bones. The T-bone caught my eye because it was 24 ounces, the size of a small housecat. I’ve always wondered whether I could polish off a slab of beef with the girth of a pillow-top mattress. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach, but that never seems to come to my mind until after I’ve attempted the biologically impossible feat of shoveling more in than my stomach space allows for. It is typically then I groan the age-old adage with a mix of regret and rejoicing.

I closed the menu with my mind made up; I was going for broke. This was no time to be modest. This was a time to “live like you were dying” as the country song suggests. The waitress stood with pen and pad in hand and asked, “What can I do for ya’, boys?” I spoke up first. “I’ll take the T-bone with fries, please.” She smirked and said something like, “Hungry today, hugh?” I nodded only slightly embarrassed. Gluttony was a foregone conclusion. Carpe Diem.

The other guys got an assortment of wine and beer; and though it seemed like an occasion where a good glass of wine or a pint of “brewsky” would have been fitting, I opted for a Coke on the rocks. Our drinks came out first and we all lifted our glasses in celebration of the selling of Doug’s ranch. We tapped our glasses all together in the middle like the Three Musketeers when they put their swords together and yell, “All for one and one for all!” Everyone tipped back on their beverage and swallowed down a couple celebratory gulps. The conversation then turned to talking about the ranch and who purchased it and what might become of land in the years to come.

A few other guys joined us and Doug bought them some beers, too. You sometimes get an image in your head of bars that is one of drunkenness and sundry acts of debauchery. I even remember growing up visualizing obnoxious orgies happening within those “dens of iniquity”. But everyone was just so full of well-wishes and gratitude in this setting. I sat there happy to be a part of this unique and momentous moment.

It wasn’t long before the waitress slid my entrée under my flaring nostrils. It was a thing of beauty. I looked at it like I was witnessing a lunar eclipse that only happens once every 700 years. I knew this moment was sacred. A moment of silence was apropos and so I paused with a similar sobriety with which I approach communion at church. A time to consecrate myself unto the steak and a time to pray a blessing over the cow that unwillingly laid down his life so that my heart might smile with the delight of a thousand angels. After several pseudo-liturgical steps of sanctifying the moment, I cut off a hunk of steak and slowly guided it toward my watering mouth. I inserted it just beyond my pursed lips and clamped my teeth down slidding the piece of flesh off my fork and onto the soft landing that was my tongue. From there my molars made short work of that medium-rare tip.

Heaven had come to earth, and I was the conduit.


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