The old blue tractor scared my mules when it passed me on the gravel road. Right behind it, the black and white dog in hot pursuit. The next hill over, the tractor was parked by the road and a man climbed out of the cab. He had a grin as big as a round bale and so did I. That’s how I met Joe Stoll and his dog.
He spoke first.
Joe: “I was getting stiff and needed to stretch my legs so it was good you came along so I had an excuse to stop and get out.”
This is big open land where a man picking up round bales alone can go sorta crazy. And if that doesn’t hurt him, his cramped tractor cab will.
Joe asked me where I was going and I told him and he told me about he got the dog. It was pestering an old couple and they told him to come pick it up.
Joe: “I picked him up and when I got him home I was going to shoot him. But I didn’t get around to it that day. He started following me around and of course then I couldn’t do it. Goes everywhere with me now.”
We talked some more. Real comfortable. One of those people you swear you spent 6 months at sea with or maybe you fought a grain bin fire together or spent a summer installing roof together in the heat.
The talk rolled on to moonshine and flat bottomed boats and then Joe asks me, “know any good jokes?”
I loved that. That a guy on a tractor who’s supposed to be picking up round bales asks another who’s supposed to be heading toward Idaho on a mule if he knows any jokes.
How two men navigating alone under the open sky and one asks another for a joke. It’s that interchange you’d expect from an era when folks asked, “where’s the salt mine?”, or “can I water my horse from your trough?” or “can I borrow a cup of sugar?”
Really. When’s the last time someone asked you to tell a joke?
Maybe that’s why none came to mind. I’m out of joke telling shape but that’s okay. It just thrilled me that some dude on a tractor picking up hay bales would stop, walk over and ask me for a joke.
I will always savor that timeless question.
In case you can’t tell, Joe wasn’t really going to shoot the dog. Joe, like me, likes a good yarn though. Ask me about the day Cracker crushed my top hat with his mule foot. I was gonna kill him….
Where This Post Was Written
I post from hay fields, barns and the occasional gas station. I typed up this post at the Burlington Junction Saddle Club.