Incident in San Francisco (Chapter 4, page 2 of 6)


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Chapter 4

As for the Grand National, he did kind of like the cowboys - and the cowgirls - and he found the livestock men and women to be OK, but he had no use for the stuck-up show-horse people. It was the animals that he really didn't like. Dogs and cats he understood, although there were exotic breeds of both at their shows which were unlike anything he'd ever encountered on San Francisco streets. These animals, though, were totally alien to a city boy. Sure, he'd seen lots of cows and horses on TV, even some sheep and pigs. Up close and personal was a different matter. Those horses were a lot bigger than a man, and the damn young cowboys didn't seem to know, or care, that not everyone felt safe with an 1,800-pound horse trotting past only a few inches away. The cattle at least were kept to a walk when being led from stall to show ring, but Ranny had seen their weights posted on stall records and knew that lots of those bulls were over a ton. They weren't as tall as the horses, but Ranny figured a person could get pretty well crushed if one of those big buggers decided to pin you to a wall, or stepped on your foot. Pigs and sheep were a lot smaller, but he'd seen a couple of incidents when a big old ram or a 400-pound sow had turned ugly, and it had taken quite a few strong and experienced men to subdue them.

No, it wasn't just the unfamiliarity, tinged with a little fear, which caused Ranny to dislike the animals. It was because much of his job entailed keeping the premises clean. All those horses, cows, sheep and pigs were always being ridden, led, or driven between the stalls and the show rings, and they dropped copious amounts of pungent manure as they went. Most of the people were good about cleaning it up if they could, but usually they were on a tight schedule and couldn't stop, so Ranny or one of the other maintenance workers got stuck doing it. Animals had started arriving last Friday and this was only Wednesday morning, so Ranny still had tons of shit to shovel before they all went home Sunday night.

A more contemplative man might have been struck by the diversity of the forms taken by the waste from these four species of mammal. Horses delivered the by-products of their digestive process in a clump of individual compact bundles, each larger than a golf ball, smaller than a tennis ball. Sheep used a somewhat similar method, dropping pea-sized, hard black pellets. The pigs, showing yet another similarity to humans, ejected a lengthy cylinder. But the cows were the bane of Ranny's existence. For some reason, they did not get rid of their bodily wastes in a solid or semi-solid form. No, they performed as though their food was always laced with a strong diuretic, and dropped their waste with the consistency of very thick pea soup. If they stood still, it formed a thick pool a foot across and a couple of inches deep - but when they let it go while they were walking, it caused a trail of dirty puddles which could stretch for thirty feet. Ranny hated cows.

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