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SLIM, by Steve Moreland, December 10, 2018

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Feb 11, 2005
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northern Nebraska Sandhills

By Steve Moreland, December 10, 2018

On a summer day a year or two after the 20th Century slipped into the 21st Century, my eleven or twelve-year-old son Brock and I headed out with a load of salt and mineral to distribute to cattle in several pastures. Carol must not have been home, and it must have been a Monday because the local Sand Café was closed for the day. Brock and I stopped at Buckles Service Station in Merriman, to fill the gas tank of the pickup, and to fuel ourselves with food for a busy afternoon. As we pulled up to the pump, I mentioned to Brock that although a tire we had left off a couple days previous was probably fixed, we would not pick it up this day because it would be in the way in the back of the pickup as we unloaded salt and mineral sacks.

We went into the establishment and chose our favorite Tielke sandwiches. This station only has one small table that seats four, and if you get there soon enough at noon, you can beat the afternoon Cribbage players and actually have a place to sit while you eat your dinner. We felt fortunate that we were first to arrive, and won the use of the table.

Brock and I were the only ones in there, except for the lady clerk on duty. We had no more than sat down, when the door opened, and a tall lean salty-looking cowboy entered the station. This stranger wandered in and asked loudly, “Do you have any sandwiches in this place?” The lady behind the counter gave him simple directions on where to find the refrigerator around the corner where the uncooked sandwiches were kept. The man picked out one to his liking and warmed it in the microwave. He then blundered over to our small table and plunked himself down into an available chair. He hadn’t used any diplomacy to “ask” or “suggest” that we might have room for one more. If we had been bovines, we’d have spooked from him coming in too fast.

It didn’t take long for this man to introduce himself as “Slim,” newly arrived from Montana, and looking for a ranch job in the Sandhills of Nebraska. After his second or third sentence, he came across as someone who could possibly be described in a politically correct way as a “compulsive talker.” And talk he could and did!

Slim bent our ears for many minutes, telling us what a top ranch hand he was, and that he was an especially good team roper. Along with desiring a high paying position on a ranch, he was also in the market for a good team roping horse.

The clock was ticking, and Brock and I were needing to be on our way. We had many miles of Sandhills two-track trail road to cover before the day was over. Slim wouldn’t slow down talking enough for me to get a word in edgewise. Donald Bennett arrived back at the station at one o’clock. He is the full-time mechanic on duty, and he does a remarkable job keeping local vehicles in good running condition. He popped his head through the door, and stated, “Steve, I have your spare tire fixed.”

This was an opportunity made to order, and I replied back, “Good, Donald. I will come in and get it.” As I walked into the shop part of the station, my new-found talkative friend Slim was right on my tail, gabbing incessantly. I rolled the tire out to the pickup, and lowered the end-gate so it could be loaded. The end-gate was slammed shut, and Slim was right there, talking up a storm.

Brock got in the pickup, and I could see through the back window that he was fidgeting and getting restless. Slim kept right on talking. A few minutes passed, and I was trying not to be rude. All of a sudden, Brock bailed out of the pickup, and stated excitedly, “Dad, Mom just called, and she has a bad oil leak on her mowing tractor!”

“Slim, I’ve got to go,” I said. This time he let me get away, but he looked forlorn and speechless as we drove off. Then I turned to my young son, who I knew didn’t even have a cell phone. “Brock,” I said, “Normally I don’t condone lying, but in this case you are let off the hook.” We grinned at each other in a father and son bonding moment, and drove on down the road.