Rod Miller: Flip-Flops Around The Ol’ Campfire

Columnist Rod Miller writes: “'They’ll mine this gravel over my dead body!!' squealed the Secretary. 'They’ll pry that gravel from my cold dead hands!' The Kid stood and asked, 'If you don’t want it mined, why the hell did you lease it in the first place?'"

Rod Miller

March 22, 20244 min read

Rod Miller
Rod Miller (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Camp was pitched on a gravelly knob near the old C-Y Trail, with the lights of Casper twinkling in the distance. 

The crew was in a contrary mood on account of one of the lead steers backtracking several times along the trail. Horses and men were tired of chasing him back into the herd.

Cookie spooned a pile of beans onto the Kaycee Kid’s plate when the Kid asked, “Hey, who’s that li’l tenderfoot over yonder? He’s wearin’ flip-flops! Don’t he realize he’ll get cactus in his tootsies wearin’ flip-flops in Wyoming?”

“That’s our Secretary of State,” Cookie answered, “an’ he’s here to do some politickin’”

“I ‘member him,” said Panhandle through a mouthful of biscuit. “He’s from back east, Pennsylvania or some damn place. His daddy’s rich an’ bought him his election certificate.”

“He’s runnin’ for governor,” Cookie said, “an’ he’s out here to get our votes.”

Panhandle wiped his mouth and said, “I suppose he could sit behind the governor’s desk iff’n they put a couple dictionaries on the chair.”

“I bet he’s gotta stand on a box to kick a duck’s ass,” offered Jinglebob, who then grabbed his ukulele and started singing a Randy Newman song.

Campfire smoke obscured the diminutive official, and the hands began to chatter about why he was around our campfire.

“Well,” mused Cookie, “he leased this here ridge to a gravel minin’ company a little while ago, an’ now he’s here to tell us he ain’t gonna let ‘em mine no gravel.”

Several of the broncpeelers looked up and said, “Whaaat? You mean he crawfished on a deal? You mean he spoke outa both sides of his mouth?”

Deacon from Dayton, our resident man of the cloth, held up his fork as if to say something about forked tongues. But he just said, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Says so in the Good Book. James, Chapter 1, Verse 8. Here endeth the lesson.”

The Kid said, “Cactus ain’t his only problem. He shouldn’t wear flip-flops iff’n he’s gonna step in the bullshit like that.”

Cookie banged on a skillet to get everyone’s attention, while the Secretary stood on a box to address the throng of cowboys in the campfire light. But, try as he might, the Secretary couldn’t escape the smoke that seemed to follow his every move.

“They’ll mine this gravel over my dead body!!” squealed the Secretary. “They’ll pry that gravel from my cold dead hands!”

He waited for the applause.

The Kid stood and asked, “If you don’t want it mined, why the hell did you lease it in the first place?”

The li’l Secretary fumed and retorted, “Why don’t you sit down and shut up?”

Cookie stepped out of the firelight and, like a Greek chorus, spoke right to the audience. “That slick li’l bastid just resorted to a maieutic, you know ... answerin’ a question with another question. It's as old a dodge as, well, Dodge.

"Let’s see what else he has to say.”

With that, Cookie turned back to the campfire, but the li’l Secretary had already picked the stickers from his toes, mounted his mule in a pout and ridden off to find the next passel of voters. 

Hardened trail hands shook their heads in disgust and wandered off to find a soft spot in the gravel for their bedrolls.

Cookie poured the last of the coffee over the campfire ashes, spat and growled, “Governor material, my ass!”

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Rod Miller

Political Columnist