Tag Archives: Socrates

Why I wrote, ‘The fox, the hare and the chef.’

As benchmarks go, I have one coming up.  My blog will surpass 100,000 hits sometime today or early this evening.  That’s not like a seventieth birthday or turning twenty-one, and it will not be chiseled on some rock for passersby to see on the road to Samarkand.  It’s a blog thing, don’t you know?

Whether many or most people have read entire posts or have glanced and surfed on, I have no way of knowing.  What I do know is that one of my posts, ‘The fox, the hare and the chef,’ March 30, 2011, has continued to rack up over 1,000 hits a week for several months.  If I am to be known by one piece of writing in my life, this is the composition I desire that to be.

I want it remembered because with beauty comes violence, and, as human beings, we attend that performance in reverence — or at least we should.

‘The fox, the hare and the chef,’ was written in one, long sitting, but I had thought about the content and structure for a long time.  To be quick about it, I had wanted to write about Thomas Keller, the chef of the French Laundry in California, not because of his fine cuisine, but because of his full experience with preparing a rabbit dish, from slaughter to the pan.  He vowed not to waste that rabbit he had personally slaughtered.  This young man in learning the skills of his trade, to become one the world’s most heralded chefs, had insight of  a Socrates in the backyard of a restaurant.  He would not waste the life he had taken.

I nearly always seek humor in writing about nature and our relationship to our good earth.  That’s hard to find these days in the midst of waste, tar pit oil and needless consumerism, but it is there to alleviate the anguish of what we see and read about.  My post, ‘The fox, the hare and the chef,’ however, had no humor, no comedy and it just, frankly, turned out that way.

The humor in ‘The fox, the hare and the chef,’ is not evident, but it is there.  When I started to raise a beautiful herd of Angus cattle in 2007, I was going to be an impersonal cattleman — no affection or emotion for the heifers and steers, all business, no silliness or attachment.  Well, was I ever caught asleep.  In caretaking the Angus, I was shot twenty-seven times by cupid; for in each of the twenty-seven cows I raised, I found myself seeing personality, behavior patterns and sociability I never thought existed.  I walked among the creatures, just to be with them.  Go figure, I fell in love with a herd of cloven-hoofed beasts!  Impersonal?  Heavens no!  I took care of those cattle like they were my own offspring.  Funny, but also quite serious.

So, when I loaded the twenty-seven Angus in the stock trailer to take them to Carter Cattle Company for transport to Perryton, Texas, the cleanest feedlot in the state, a part of me went with them, and I knew that their rearing to that point had been the best around.  Whatever table they came to, I wanted people sustained with a healthy product and a sense that the great chain of being continue with a reverence for the gift of life on their plate — like Keller’s little bunnies.  Don’t waste the cattle I tended with love, and don’t waste your own life in boundless folly, for that does not honor the life in front of you — or on your plate.

With beauty comes violence, and, as human beings, we should attend that performance in reverence.  That is why I wrote, ‘The fox, the hare and the chef.’

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Notes, corrections and additions:

Thomas Keller, The Importance of Rabbits,‘ The French Laundry Cookbook, New York: Artisan, 1999.  See page 205 for the essay, recipe on page 207.

The fox is beautiful to behold, but it will take its cut in the barnyard and in the field — beauty and violence.

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Filed under Life in Balance

Fanny with Duncan Steele-Park

Shiners Fannin Peppy with Duncan Steele-Park

I went to see Fanny Wednesday morning after classes.  Duncan Steele-Park took her through her paces, circles and stops.  It was a cold morning and Fanny and Duncan followed one calf in the large indoor arena to accustom her to cattle.  At times, I saw her breath as a small cloud, rise softly, then evaporate.  Fanny has been around cattle all her short life, but having a rider to give her commands was different.  Duncan gave me a critique of her behavior in the workout and she stops really well.  Her work on right-hand circles is testing her, although her left-hand circles are good.  Fanny has about two more weeks with Duncan before we make a decision on her future.  She is out of kindergarten, Duncan says, and in elementary school.

On the one hand, with progressive improvement, Fanny can stay in school and in another year become a futurity prospect in a crop of 750 cutting horses.  Then, on the other hand, Fanny can have a good education at the hands of Duncan for a few more weeks and come back home to our place to be a good companion and safe horse for human beings.  Duncan has stated that there could be reasons to bring her out of his training and put her on a decent, average road for horses that will not be a prospect for the Fort Worth futurity, but will give her experience for a comfortable, safe life with human beings.  And, they with Fanny.

I do wish all of you could see Duncan and Fanny working together.  He lets her be free in learning.  By that I mean, he lets her be a force for herself, not him, not Duncan.  He will start every session with turning her head with the rein and hackamore (no snaffle, no bit) to the left, then to the right.  When he changes the gait in her circles, there is no overt spurring or talk, just a few clucks or pressure with his legs, and she adjusts.  I could not see the cue Duncan was applying to get her to stop.  Maybe there was a slight pressure from the hackamore for Fanny to whoa, but I could not see his cue for her to halt.  And, she stops quickly.

So, I asked Duncan, What is the cue you give Fanny to whoa?  As he was riding by on Fanny, Duncan said, Look at my leg and boot.  I looked and when Duncan takes his boot and leg away from her flank, just slightly, she stops.  All he does is take off leg and boot pressure about her flanks and she halts.  Dead so, doesn’t move.  Stays immobile, stopped.  I thought: That’s why I pay tuition.

Fanny is fortunate.  Fanny is under a stoa, a porch, of ancient pedagogy, a place with a teacher that doesn’t use a cudgel to beat the cursive into the student, but a stoa-arena that allows her to draw out of herself a strength and performance that instills confidence that she will possess, whether she is futurity bound or is ridden by a young, blondhaired lass in the greenest of nature’s pastures, enjoying the wind on her face and the gentle pressure of rider around her soft, sorrel flanks.  Go, my darling, Fanny, go.  I have given you the best I could.

Fanny and Duncan Under the Stoa (Click image for enlargement.)

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Filed under Duncan Steele-Park, Horses, Shiners Fannin Peppy (Fanny)