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On the Edge of Common Sense

by Baxter Black

On the Edge of Common Sense

The Heeler Mentality

It all started when my wife asked, “What happened to your head?”

“Where?” I asked, thinking I had scratched it in the mesquite or during the night while I was sleeping someone had tattooed “KICK ME” across my forehead. She reached up and touched me above the left ear. “Oh,” I said, “I had a little hair trim.”

“Rollie got a little close, didn’t he?”

“No, not really. I, uh, trimmed it myself,” I explained.

“So, that explains the lock of black, tan and gray hair I found in the sink,” she said. “I thought it was off that deer you shot yesterday. Why didn’t you let me do it?”

“I don’t know, I guess I was in a hurry.”

“Pretty good reason,” she said, “Did you close your eyes while you were trimming your hair? Or did a sudden earth tremor rattle your clippers? Wait, you were working on your trick or treat mask of Frankenstein!”

“Yes,” I said defensively, “it was . . . it was just the heeler mentality.” That stopped her.

The heeler mentality is a version of the cowboy mentality where instinct often overwhelms good judgment. It can be compared to the team roping “header” mentality. For instance; a header usually has his hair styled rather than cut; a heeler cuts his own hair and always needs a shave. A header drives a fairly new pickup and trailer with a coordinated paint job; the heeler is still buyin’ recaps and the paint job on his trailer matches the primer on his brother’s BBQ grill. A header usually has two horses, his favorite and one in training; the heeler has one horse, in training and for sale. The header has ulcers; the heeler has a hangover.

I’m left-handed so I am condemned to roping the heels. I play the guitar right-handed because my dad made me. So now I can never play music as well as a natural right-hander plus I sign my name upside down because it’s the only way I can write it legibly. People see me signing my name and think it’s a parlor trick. “How long did it take you to learn that?” they ask. It’s like asking a one legged man how long it took him to learn to limp. I’m not doing it on purpose . . . it’s a handicap! Being left-handed in a right-handed world is like being a bolt with Machine Threads surrounded by nuts all drilled for Standard.

A heeler sees nothing wrong with turning his socks inside out to keep them fresh, storing his dress shirt in his dop kit, and using Scotch tape instead of sewing on a new one on when he loses a button off his cuff. It’s not a bad thing having the heeler mentality. Life is easier. You can drop your sandwich on the floor, then pick it up and eat it. What’s a few grains of sand. They think nothing of doing a rectal exam on a cow without a plastic sleeve, getting mud on their new boots, climbing on a bad horse out of obstinance, receiving a D in Algebra, or never balancing their check book. But, we can focus intensely on a project when we need to; like comin’ out of the heeler’s box concentrating on the throw, or makin’ a bank shot off the rail in a game of 8-Ball, or cutting off our nose to spite our face!

So, giving myself a hair trim is not out of character. I can live with it, even though I look like the barber did it with an electric sander and a weed eater. It’ll grow out, just a little slower, that’s all.