December 2006

Unfit To Cut Assholes Out Of Cows

I found myself the fall of 1975 reluctantly hitchhiking back to my hometown of Sioux City, Iowa. Over my shoulder was a garment bag holding a gray pin stripe suit (with cuffs). A tote bag held my dress shoes and resume.  I was looking for work.

The previous ten years I had hitchhiked over 20,000 miles, to both coasts, Mexico and all sorts of places in between. To college and back. To California and Haight Ashbury in the 60s. Florida, too.

I was the unsurpassed hitchhiker among my cadre of friends.  My uniform was a bright white button down shirt. I flashed an equally bright smile and held a sign that read: Student to.  To Omaha. To Seattle. To Los Angeles.  To the next large city. I was young.  It was great.

I wasn’t so young in 1975, 26 and in need of job. I had one year of teaching under my belt. Yet, teaching was not an option because at that time in my life I had no appropriate response to the student who would say, “Gee, Mr. Jepson, I wish I didn’t have to be here [the classroom] today.”

Other than, “Gee, I wish you didn’t have to be here either.” Not the best response.

I told my father upon arriving home that I thought I might apply at Iowa Beef Packers (IBP). The founder, Currier Holman, was a family friend and at one time, our next-door neighbor.  Dad suggested I consider other options. The IBP treasurer’s home had just been burned to the ground. IBP had horrible labor problems and rumor had it that the treasurer’s home had been bombed and burned by mistake.  It was right next door to Currier’s home.  Too funny.

Regardless, I called Currier and actually got him on the phone.  He asked how Marybelle [my mother] was and it was then that I realized he thought he was talking with my father.  I subsequently explained who I was and what I wanted.  What followed next has become part of family lore and much humor.

Currier brusquely asked about my training and background and I gave him a brief rundown finishing with, “And, this summer I just completed my Masters Degree in 19th century European history.”

A long pause followed, sort of a one potato, two potato.  By six potato, Currier Holman, president of what was to become the largest meat packing firm in America, a $14 billion concern said, “You’re not fit to cut a..holes out of cows.”

Too funny.   My father and I had a good laugh over that one. That Currier!  Up bright and early the next morning, decked out in my freshly pressed suit and exquisitely polished shoes (married I was in those shoes) I was cleared through the cyclone, double stranded, barbed-at-the-top, fence.  I drove past growling Doberman’s on leashes and shotgun toting security goons and into the corporate headquarters of IBP.

Ironically to me, it turned out that Currier was into the Harvard Business School approach to management. A short, balding officious, oh-so-busy, by the numbers MBA type gave me the straight deal. I start in the cutting room.

And with that I was given the tour of the adjacent packing plant. The cutting room was the size of two gymnasiums with huge conveyor chains carrying whole sides of beef, one after another, through holes in the ceiling down onto the cutting room floor where, literally, hundreds of men with knives and electric saws and hatchets made short order and shippable packages of beef to be transported to the east coast.

Three images remain.  The sounds were deafening.  A grinding roar of machinery and men that efficiently and quickly reduced once massive animals to bloody pieces of packaged meat.  Swirling, massive drains of foamy blood and watery bone—washed all away. And the men.  Short, brown faced, grim men with missing teeth and missing fingers and scars on their arms and faces. Long, fresh scars running the length of a cheek or an entire forearm.

There I stood, fresh-faced as any yearling, blood spattering my shiny shoes. I didn’t go to work at IBP.  That fall I built portable hog houses in Obscure, Missouri before taking a job with The University of Missouri.

The immigration service recently raided meatpacking plants in the Midwest and rounded up many brown skinned men.  They were here illegally, cutting up animals for wages few of us would ever consider. I may have been unfit to cut a..holes out of cows only because my circum-stances didn’t make me so “fit.” Next time you consume a cheap burger, reflect on who is so “fit” to do such work.  You might even gag. Yet, we swallow it all.   Don’t we?

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


For Men Only.
A Low & Vulgar Sport.

Christopher Hitchens in this month’s Vanity Fair Magazine writes about humorless women. He suggests men are funnier than women because they have to be.  In order to be attractive to women.  I laughed out loud at his characterizations of the types of humor men enjoy and employ.   There really is something to the observation about guys and their sophomoric, junior high humor.

As coincidence will have it, I have a perfect illustration.  I was at a birthday party this past Saturday night for my brother-in-law. Ten of us had gathered and were eating dinner outside his lakeside home with a crackling bonfire roaring 30 feet away. The wine had flowed, the food superb as always and then something ripped, like sheets ripping through the air, loud and pronounced and instantaneously recognizable.  No, it wasn’t the space shuttle launching which we actually did see later that glorious evening.

No, it was the unmistakable sound of a human passing gas. It wasn’t a gentle freep, something a refined Winter Park lady might discreetly pass during a cotillion luncheon at the Racquet Club. No, it wasn’t that. Neither was it a little toot that might inadvertently launch itself during a vigorous yoga class movement. Something I’ve experienced personally.  By that I mean, observed, of course. Nor was it one of those familiar swoooooshes that sometimes the guilty fob off as the dog’s doings. Shameful, to be sure.  The fobbing.

No, this was a rip-roaring burst of methane that quite possibly could have launched a small missile, indeed. There was no mistaking it for what it was, nor would you ever attribute it to the fair sex. It was robust, assured and unapologetic. It hung over the table just the right amount of time until a series of colorful, yet distinctly human pop, pop, pops erupted, followed by a gush of such monumental proportions that you thought an Indian water buffalo had silently and surreptitiously sidled up unannounced and let go an impropriety that future generations of males—it’s depth and breadth unassailable— would eagerly recall and reverently  honor.

And the men just burst out laughing.  Once it became apparent that this was no accidental burst of manly expression but something else, indeed. It was a Spencer’s Store gag gift a pottery student of my brother had just purchased for him.  It consisted of a small, yet powerful speaker (black and about the size of several packs of cigarettes).  The best part of it was a key ring size remote control device that you kept in your pocket. You could be yards away from the speaker when you, shall we say, launched a broadside.  It is critical to feign ignorance—don’t you dare accuse me—to keep a straight face.  At least for a while.

The ladies politely acknowledged the humor but quickly became bored.  The men laughed and then laughed yet more at the excessiveness of it all.  We eagerly took turns pressing the button, unleashing the repetitive seven or eight distinctive sounds associated with such a low and vulgar (manly?) sport.

I speculated at length over its possibilities.  Of duck-taping it under a chair at some hoity-toity event (perhaps, a city council meeting or formal lecture at the University Club) and discreetly employing the button.  And pity the poor soul who arbitrarily selected that chair.  Having been a speaker enough times, know in your heart of hearts I would have taste enough not to use it during the featured performance. My gawd, I’m not a Philistine!

Regarding Hitchen’s assertion that men use humor to attract women, I concur.  I’d venture more women have been bedded by wit and humor than by any other seductive consideration.

In the article Fran Lebowitz, author and humorist, says, “Men obviously like the gross stuff. Why? Because it’s childish.”

“Not in front of your mother,” insisted my father concerning such matters. But with his sons and brothers and his father, certain bragging rights were guaranteed (length, pitch, tune and volume) and it was considered a right of passage (pun intended) when a lad had sufficient courage to openly join that noble and inclusive brotherhood of accomplished cheese cutters (BOACC).  With all the rights and privileges and acceptance that inevitably follow such august airings.

Childish? You bet.  Know what?  And then we die and what is it that is heard, what is it our tired, old bodies muster out upon death: a perceptible “Swoooosh.” Is it irony that our last passage is one that so amused us when alive?Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US12.14.06 

Eve’s Accessory

I don’t know whether it’s true or not but Adam is alleged to have affectionately called Eve his cute little cutlet. Ah, if the Bible had only been drafted by women. It stands to reason if it had, God would naturally have created women first.

Instead of Adam’s Rib, we’d have, what?  Eve’s Appendage?  Eve’s Add-on? Eve’s Member?  (I thought that too suggestive, yet it has a certain utilitarian resonance.) I settled for Eve’s Accessory (batteries not included).  Men as the best accessory.  Better than shoes?

Hmmm?I suggested last week that the world’s holy books had unfortunately too little of the sacred feminine in them for my taste.  To put it mildly, the Bible, the Koran are misogynic abominations, urgently in need of modernization.

While eating at the White Wolf Café with friend Louis last week, a pious woman, listening with “rapt” attention to our conversation took umbrage with my characterization of I Corinthians 14:34-35: Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak. . .  Miss Nosey Devout insisted that God didn’t have it in for women, He just didn’t want them mindlessly chattering away, you know gossiping and all, during service and so he gave us I Corinthians.

I like it.  God’s not too busy to put the “kibosh” on womanly chitty-chat such that we have it chapter & verse in our scared text yet Dear Old Dad virtually ignores our relentless rape and pillage of Mother Earth.  Oh well, so much for omniscience.  At least, He’s got his priorities.  YOU, WOMAN! QUIET DOWN THERE!

But would His priorities be Her priorities.  That is, if the Bible or the Koran had been written by women would the girls have drafted language limiting their right to speech or their freedom. All things being equal, I don’t believe you voluntarily place an onerous yoke on your shoulders or intentionally hobble your feet, vision or mind.  That seems to be what men, more often than not, have done to women.  If our history be any example.

Imagine what kind of country America would be if for the past 200 years the percentages were reversed in Congress, the presidency, the courts and our state legislatures.  That is, every seat occupied by a man had actually been occupied by a woman instead. Imagine that?

Last week I received an e-mail from John in California and this was his take on the status of Mideast women (from having traveled extensively in the region), “There they were in all their glory filling every exchange with just the same amount of religious hate as the men but, of course, in less obvious ways. Laws and customs that limit women are wrong, but do not think for a moment that things would be any different if they assumed power.”

I wrote back to Dear John the following: Thanks for taking the time to write. I appreciate it.  Two things.  I really don't see huge armies of women aggressively and violently hitting the street.  I know I could be wrong there.  Not that women are immune from committing mayhem and violence.  That said, why not give women a chance at writing the rules? And, absolutely nowhere is it expected (or implied) a significantly different culture as a result.  Just a shot at running the show.

I’ve started asking people if women ran the show, wrote and enforced the rules, would the game be different?  California John thinks not. I totally understand John’s sentiment.  Some of the meanest, gnarlyist, sure, I’ll bury the hatchet, fella, right between your shoulder blades, most petty, vindictive, grudge-keeping individuals I know are women.  And, don’t-cha just lov’um.

But, I for one, do think our world would be a different place (even marginally) if men had, for thousands of years, accorded women equal status, that if we had ever consistently considered their concerns as our concerns, perhaps, just perhaps, we would not have so easily slaughtered, imprisoned or enslaved so many “other” women’s children.  Let alone our own.

Men as accessories.  Tough to imagine, isn’t it guys?  No more so, I suppose than hearing you were created from something as expendable, it seems, as a cutlet.

Boys as toys. Turnabout as fair play?

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US