By Rick Mooney
Your fantasy comes true. For once, a rude, inconsiderate "sportsman” reaps his due reward
We pull up in front of the brick house, which looks like so many others in this residential neighborhood of my hometown. Parked in the driveway is a brown and white Chevy 4x4. "Must be the place,” I say.
My wife looks down at a small index card in her hand, then at the license plate on the truck. "Let's see, license number S-L-O-B—1,” she says. "Yep, this is it.”
We turn into the driveway, get out and start unloading the car. We are about finished when the front door of the house opens. "Can I help you?” the man asks.
"I think we can handle it,” I reply.
He looks puzzled. "What I meant was, what are you doing here?”
"We're going on a picnic.
"You're what? Do I know you?”
"Well, we've never been formally introduced,” I say. "But you and your hunting buddies have been out to our farm a couple of times, and since you never seem to have the time to introduce yourself, well, we thought we'd stop by and pay you a visit, Slick. Where's your barbecue pit?”
I let my cigarette drop out of my mouth onto the driveway, then make an exaggerated show of stamping it out.
He looks at me in disbelief. I reach into my pocket and pull out the rest of the pack. "Want one?” I start to offer him the pack, then pull it back. "Oh, that's right. You and your friends smoke cigars, don't you. I found a couple of stogies butted out right where that grass fire started on the farm last year. Boy, that was some kind of fire, Slick. You should have seen . . . "
"Look,” he interrupts, "I don't know what you're doing here, but. . . "
It was my turn to interrupt. "Well, Slick ol' buddy, it's been nice chatting with you, but we're losing our daylight here and we've got some picnicking to do. Just point us to the backyard.”
I crush my empty soda can and toss it over my shoulder into a rose bush. "Hey,” he yells. "What do you think you're doing?” He runs over to pick up the can. My wife, the kids and I grab our gear and head around the house.
We come to a chain-link fence marking off the backyard. "Use the gate or climb the fence?” I ask.
My wife shrugs, reaches into her purse and pulls out a quarter. "Heads we use the gate, tails we climb the fence.” The coin lands heads. "Cheer up dear,” she says. "We can climb the fence on the way out.” She always did know the right thing to say.
Slick comes stomping around the corner, my soda can in his hand, just as I open the gate. "Look out,” he yells. Too late. A big Irish setter bolts through the gate and does a couple of complete circles in Slick's front yard. Then the dog dashes across the street, cuts through a neighbor's yard, and disappears behind a house.
"Do you know what you've done?” Slick shouts. "That dog will run for hours. Who knows what kind of trouble he'll get into?”
"Aw, Slick, I'm really sorry,” I say, gently knocking my palm against my forehead. "I just wasn't thinking. I never suspected you had a dog fenced up back here.”
He clenches his fists. "You idiot! Why would I have a fence here if I didn't have something penned up?”
"Calm down, Slick. Look, it was just an oversight. Probably the same kind of goof you and your buddies made last fall out at our place when you left that gate open and 15 of our steers got out.”
He starts to say something, then turns around suddenly and takes off running in the direction of the dog.
"Excitable fellow,” I say.
"Definite Type A personality,” my wife answers.
Slick reappears about 45 minutes later. "Hey Slick,” I call. "Couldn't find the dog, huh? Oh well, don't worry, he'll probably be back in a week or so.”
My wife consoles: "C'mon and get your mind off it. Care to join us in a game of kickball?”
His mouth drops open, as though he is looking at us for the first time. He screams, "Hey get off, that's my new grass seeding. See the sign?”
"What sign?” I ask innocently.
He walks over to a small signpost and turns it around so it faces my wife and me. "Can't you read?” he bellows.
"Sure I can, Slick. It says: ‘Keep off the grass.'”
He clenches his fists again. "Well?”
I pause for a second or two before speaking. "Aw, Slick. I thought if anybody would realize that signs are just for decoration, it would be you.”
I walk over to my gear and pull out a .22 pistol. Before Slick can say anything, I level the gun at the sign and fire off six quick shots. My wife runs over to the sign and calls back: "Six out of six! Great shooting, dear.”
I puff out my chest a bit, then push the gun toward Slick. "Still three rounds left in the clip, want to give it a go?” He backs away. "Slick, I'm surprised at you. If it weren't for you and your buddies, I never would realize what great sport shooting holes in signs can be. C'mon let's see what you can do.”
He doesn't move. "Oh I get it, Slick. You only shoot holes in no-trespassing signs, huh? Oh well, nothing wrong with a purist, I always say.”
Just then I hear a noise behind me. I wheel around to see a squirrel scurrying across the roof of Slick's garden shed. I level the gun again. "No, don't . . . " Slick yells.
I fire off the last three rounds. "Missed! Doggone it, Slick, you startled me when you yelled.”
Slick runs to the shed. "Look at this,” he says, pointing to three small holes, two in the siding and one in the window pane. "You'll pay for this.”
"Okay Slick, just send me a bill. Then I'll send you a bill for the 11 holes that you put in my barn with a 30-06.”
"Are you through?” he faintly asks.
"We've got to get a fire started. Where's your ax?” I inquire.
"Well, a chainsaw will do. We need some firewood. How about that oak over there? And since you don't have a barbecue pit, we'll have to dig a firepit.” I turn to my wife. "Dear, would you run back to the car and get the shovel? And see if I left that ax in the trunk.”
"Now see here,” Slick says, reddening. "I'm getting . . . "
I rudely interrupt again. "Hey what happened to your chainsaw anyway, Slick? I know you have one.” He glares at me. "Aw come on, Slick, you remember last November. After you left, I found three little pine trees missing from my windbreak. By the way, did you have a good Christmas?”
My wife returns with the shovel and a small hatchet. She speaks to Slick first. "I think you'd better get over to the neighbors right away,” she says. "Your dog is over there and there's a little boy crying and, well, I don't think it's a very big bite. But his mother went into hysterics and started screaming. I couldn't make it all out, but one of the words sounded like lawsuit or lawyer or something like that.”
"Oh my gosh,” Slick yells.
We watch him dart across the yard. My wife shakes her head. "Most definitely a Type A.”
Slick shows up about two hours later, just as we are finishing supper. "Aw shoot,” I say. "I didn't know you'd be back so soon, Slick. We could have saved you a bite to eat.”
"I want you people off my property now,” he says in quivering anger, "or I'm calling the police.”
"Well, you can if you want to Slick, but you'd probably be wasting your time. I've called the sheriff just about every time you've been out to my place, but he just sighs and say there isn't a whole lot he can do.”
"We'll see about that.” He turns toward the house, then turns back toward us in hesitation.
My wife starts to pick up the assorted garbage scattered around our picnic area. I stop her. "Dear, I'm surprised at you. When we're guests at someone else's home, we're supposed to follow their customs.” She looks puzzled. "Don't you remember how Slick and his friends always leave us some nice souvenirs like empty beer cans and spent shell casings whenever they come to visit? When in Rome . . . "
She smiles sheepishly, then turns to Slick. "I didn't mean to be impolite.”
The muscles in his neck tighten. "Just get!” he yells.
"You're right, Slick,” I say. "It's been a long day, and we've got a long walk back to the car—and that fence of yours to climb.” I turn to my wife. "By the way dear, did you bring those wire cutters? That's another trick I learned from our buddy Slick here.”
"Get out!” he screams.
I hold out my hand. "We're going, but let me thank you for a wonderful day. We'll get together more often.”
"I know,” my wife says, "every time Slick and his buddies come out to our farm on the weekend, we can return the favor and come back here sometime during the week.”
"Get out!” Slick repeats. "You'll never see me out there again.” And then his babbling becomes incoherent.
The last we see him, he is galloping down the street, snorting like a buck in rutting season.
Farm Journal, October 1986