Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Crazier'n a Pet Coon

      Anyone who’s ever driven the lonely secondary highways and county roads of the sagebrush sea knows the Code of the West as it applies to found objects. If you find a tow strap or a crescent wrench lying in the middle of the road, it’s yours. There’s no point in trying to track down the owner. He or she might not have passed this way for weeks. They may never pass this way again. It’s yours – finders keepers. So it is with certain colorful turns of phrases, often comparative in nature, that you run into in the same western country.
      I was reminded of that recently when I was speaking to a group of folks in Rhode Island and I mentioned that there were a lot of micro-breweries in Colorado. But I didn’t say it that way precisely. I said, “You can’t swing a dead cat there and not hit a craft brewer.” There was a general chuckle and I realized that many of those good people had not heard that turn of phrase before. When someone asked me about it later, I said that I just picked it up somewhere. Like objects you find laying in the road, these metaphors and similes just seem to be part of life here in Wyoming.
Let me provide a few, with their generally accepted translations:
“Hotter’n a two-dollar pistol” – very hot
“Uglier’n nine miles of muddy road” – very ugly
“He looked like a heifer in a lightning storm” – he seemed startled
“They were like two badgers in a sack” – they couldn’t get along
“Wound up tighter’n an eight-day clock” – very anxious

       Some of these I’ve picked up like hay ropes and socket sets along the road of a life spent in Wyoming. But many of them I learned at an early age from my father and his sister. Both had colorful vocabularies, and both were bold in using them. I remember my dad remarking that a certain lady in our hometown, when viewed from the rear, “looked like two cub bears in a sack”. Aunt Carol, whenever someone appeared pale, would note that “His face looked like two sheep turds floating in a bowl of milk” or if it was raining hard, it was “raining like a cow peeing on a flat rock”. 


The Ranger:
Grandpa has a lot of rather
interesting phrases. I’ve learned most of them over the years, and I still use some of them frequently. Most of them apply to things about living in Wyoming, and most of them have an ‘n or two. Here’s a couple of the ones mentioned above as well as a few more I've learned over the years, with my thoughts on them:

“Hotter’n a two-dollar pistol” – Can you get one at the dollar store?
“Uglier’n nine miles of muddy road” – That’s why we have four wheel drive right?
“He looked like a heifer in a lightning storm” – Have you ever seen a cow in a Wyoming monsoon?
“They were like two badgers in a sack” – Isn’t that animal abuse?
“Wound up tighter’n an eight-day clock” – It’s like that Beatles song, Eight Days a Week
“prettier’n a spotted colt” – We have a couple VERY pretty horses here in Wyoming
“busier’n a one-legged man in a kicking contest” – I guess it would be pretty hard
“colder’n a well diggers butt” – Actually, I happen to know that’s not QUITE the original way of saying it :)
“squealed like a pig under a gate” – What? We don’t even raise pigs?!
“howled like a cut cat” – Do cut cats howl? I haven’t seen one yet.
“crazier’n a pet coon” – Who even has a pet raccoon??

       So there we go. Try to imagine, if you will, some of these in real life. Or just don’t. It’s better that way. Most of these phrases have been edited slightly, because I think some kids are reading this hopefully. My great-grandpa and his sister were interesting, colorful people, to say the least.

-The Ranger