Stripped of Pretense by Jan Beiler



The black Angus cow turned her placid face toward us, thoughtfully munching sage brush. A spindly legged calf pushed against her udder.

A low growl rumbled in the throats of our two dogs.

Tigre! Grizzly! Stay here!”

The sun peeping over the bluff cast a rozy glow over the Mexican hillsides. Phil and I, breathing deeply of the crisp, pure air, had been hiking over the rocky terrain in a companionable mood. This was one of my favorite times of the day. With all eight of us crowded together in our small house, there wasn’t much privacy. The walls of the house were made of thick adobe but the crooked doorways made eavesdropping easy – even if you weren’t trying to listen. I got tired of whispered conversations.

Now that we took these early morning walks, we had plenty of time to talk. Plus we couldn’t go far in any direction without going down one side of the mesa and up another and maybe we’d even lose a pound or two.

I loved the country side. Scrubby little spruce, twisted by the ever present wind dotted the landscape. Fence posts made from gnarled limbs and small trees and strung with rusty barbed wire staggered along beside the road. Wood smoke tinged the air and in the distance roosters crowed.

Ranging black Angus cattle grazed on sage brush or gathered in the riverbeds for water. Long-eared jack rabbits, frightened out of their hiding places, zigzagged off to safer parts.

Tigre and Grizzly, our two mutts, loved these morning walks as well as we did. At the first squeak of the screen door opening, their ears would prick and they would be on their feet. By the time it banged shut, they’d be on the door step, grinning and wagging their tails.

The two dogs loped along beside us, past the neighboring corral and down into the arroyo. As we started up the other side, the dogs spotted the cow. She stopped chewing and raised her head warily.

Both dogs took several prancing steps toward the cow.

No, Grizzly. No Tigre. Stay here,” we said. The dogs trembled and whined in visible effort to control that inborn thrill of the chase.

Good dogs,” we encouraged, stroking their heads.

Suddenly the temptation was too overpowering for Grizzly. He gathered his strength into a tremendous bound and took off after the cow. The Angus snorted and thundered away, tail high, small calf sprinting behind.

Woof, Woof!” Tigre barked, running a few steps ahead and then looking back at us. Do you see what that bad Grizzly is doing? he seemed to say.

He waited for us to catch up, and fell into step, bumping into my leg, touching my hand with his cold muzzle.

Woof, Woof,” he confided. I would never do such a thing. I’m a good dog.

Phil and I looked at each other and laughed. You crazy thing!” I said. “Do you remember yesterday how you chased Nuko’s dog? You wouldn’t let him alone until he was inside the yard gate. Grizzly was the good dog that time.”

They’re like we are sometimes, aren’t they?” Phil said. “Can’t stand to see someone else get away with what we’d like to be doing.”

Yeah,” I agreed. “And in God’s sight, stripped of pretense, I’m sure we look just this silly.”

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