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Excerpt from The Fur West



     "Pa, Iím going to leave home. Iím going out on my own."
     "I always knew you would. Youíre fixing on being a cat herder, arenít you?"
     "Yes, Pa, I am going to make a name for myself." I puffed out my chest.
     He looked at me. "I know you will. Youíll do Lydia and me proud. Youíll redeem my reputation. Wonít you, son?"
     In my self-importance, I had forgotten his humiliation at the hands of Mary, his old friend Clem, and that Frenchman La Rare. I looked closely at Pa. Dear Lord, could a man truly age that quickly?
     "Iíll do my best, Pa." I turned to walk away.
     "Hold on, Chris, hold on. Youíll be signing up tomorrow and I have a few words of advice for you."
     "Oh Father, thatís not really necessary." I turned back to face him.
     "I donít mind, Chris. Here goes."
     I listened. He was my father.    
     He continued, "Always treat women with courtesy and respect.
     "Stick with your trail friends.
     "Donít question your bosses and donít complain.
     "Donít eat mushrooms.
     "Keep your vertebrae in alignment.
     "Stick to your task until itís done and do it well.
     "Keep your eyes open for good truffle land.
     "You canít shoot worth a lick. Carry big pistols so people will think you can
.    "Be kind to all cats. One of them kept you alive when you were born.     


      "When you get paid at the end of the trail, donít spend all your wages in a saloon. Be sure to invest in a properly diversified portfolio.
     "Lutefisk is healthy food. Some donít cotton to it because it offends the senses of: smell, sight, touch, and taste. Hmm, best stick to gooseflesh. You were raised on it."
     "Father, I hear mother calling me." He was my father, but when would this end?
     He continued, "Why Chris, sheís visiting at the McCombís farm over a mile away. Youíre imagining things. Where was I? Oh yes.
     "Never play in a friendly game of poker.
     "Make sure your cats always have enough to eat.
     "Stay away from Norwegians.
     "Keep your powder dry."
     "Father, Iíll be wearing six-shooters. We donít carry powder pouches anymore."
     "Thatís so, thatís so. Well, listen anyway to the wisdom of an old-timer."
     "Thereís more?"
     "Yes, there is."
     I sat down on a tree stump. I used to string a hammock from this tree. My goodness, I slept well here. Sure could have used a hammock just then.
     "Chris, Chris, Chris! Remember you can make jerky out of anything.
     "And last of all, donít sign up for college correspondence courses. The mail will never catch up with you on the trail."
     I stood up and grasped his hand. "Well, Pa, time to get my gear together. You took me in and raised me as your son. Iíll always be right grateful to you. Iíll make you proud. Iíll be the greatest catpuncher ever."