The Cattle Prod

I have two brothers and a sister. Between the four of us we have been married seven times. My younger brother has never married. I have two daughters, my parents’ only grandchildren. My father has always placed great importance on patrilineal descent. My parents did their part, then it all kind of went to hell. My father once said that arranged marriages might have worked out better. This from the man who couldn’t get our names straight. My younger brother grew up thinking his name was Bouncer. The dog didn’t care what he was called, he came to food, a beagle that weighed fifty pounds, thanks to my father whose favorite saying was “do as I say, not as I do.” We listened. He fed the dog openly, we slipped food under the table.

My father has meticulously saved pictures of every spouse, every wedding. It isn’t nostalgia. It’s the pictographic version of the cattle prod I once found in the front yard when I was married to my second husband. At the time I said it was a sign from God, intended for him. Even my husband, an Olympian in Procrastination, laughed and agreed.

Decades passed before I understood much about moving cattle or the subtler uses of electric shock. Anyone who has trained a herding dog knows it isn’t just about moving but where and how, about knowing when to remain still, how to control the impulse to rush through the gate, that sometimes the application of shock is used as a last resort to prevent mistakes like getting kicked in the head.

Two years ago, Dad showed “the wedding collection” to his granddaughters.


2 thoughts on “The Cattle Prod

  1. redmitten says:

    i’m so way behind, but am catching up. love the way this piece speaks to so many things unmentioned.

  2. I think that sums up my family pretty well – the so many things unmentioned – fill in the blanks…

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