Bernard, a bugle and some odd politics in old Wyo

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By Bill Sniffin

Although lengthy, this is my favorite political story about a famous incident that occurred many decades ago in Wyoming’s Absaroka County. It occurred back in the times when there were foxhunts and even a drawbridge on the Tongue River.

It seems that a farm woman called a veterinarian in Durant from her home in Absaroka County about her mule, Bernard. Bernard was ill, and the lady was very upset. 

“Doctor” she said, “Bernard is sick and I wish you would come and take a look at him.”

“It’s after 6 p.m., and I’m eating supper,” the doctor protested. “Give him a dose of mineral oil and if he isn’t all right in the morning, I’ll come and take a look at him.”

The woman asked how she should give Bernard the mineral oil, and the doctor said to give it to him through a funnel. She said she was afraid the mule might bite her.

“You’re a farm woman and you know about these things,” the doctor said. “Give it to him through the other end.”

The woman went down to the barn. There was Bernard moaning and groaning in his misery. Few things get sicker than a mule.

She looked for a funnel, but the nearest thing she could find was her Uncle Bill’s foxhunting bugle -– a beautiful gold-plated instrument with gold tassels.

She took the bugle and nervously affixed it to the proper portion of the mule’s anatomy. Bernard was unperturbed. Still eyeing the mule, she reached behind her for the mineral oil.

Unfortunately, she picked up a bottle of turpentine by mistake and gave the unfortunate Bernard a very liberal dose.

Bernard’s drooping head jerked upright. His eyes widened. He screamed like a panther, jumped up, kicked down one side of the barn and took off down the road at a mad gallop. The bugle was still affixed in his rear.

Every time he jumped, the hunting horn would blow.

All the dogs in the neighborhood knew what that meant. The horn was blowing, so Uncle Bill was going fox hunting. Soon Bernard had a pack of hounds in full cry behind him.

Those who witnessed the chase said it was an unforgettable scene.

There was Bernard, running at top speed, with the hunting horn protruding behind him. The mellow notes were issuing from the instrument, the gold tassels were flying and the dogs were barking joyously in full pursuit.

Old Man Hogan, who hadn’t drawn a sober breath in 15 years, was sitting on the front porch as the spectacle swept past him. He gave up whiskey that day and later became active in the temperance movement.

It was good and dark by the time Bernard and the dogs reached the drawbridge on the Tongue River. 

The bridge-tender, who was running for Sheriff of Absaroka County and was heavily favored to win, heard the horn and thought a boat was coming.

The bridge-tender hurriedly raised the drawbridge. Bernard ran right up the span, sailed into the water and drowned. The pack of dogs went right in behind him, but they all swam to safety. The hunting horn went down with Bernard and was never recovered.

Stories spread fast in that part of Absaroka County, and everybody knew about the incident by the next morning. 

It so happened the election for Sheriff was occurring that day.

The bridge-tender received exactly seven votes— one from himself, and the others from six close relatives.

Political analysts interpreted the election as follows: 

The voters figured that any man who didn’t know the difference between a boat coming up the Tongue River and a mule with a bugle up his rear end wasn’t fit to hold public office in Absaroka County.

(Post script: This is a plagiarized version of a story first told by Richard Walser in a book called Tar Heel Laughter. Plus our apologies to Craig Johnson of Longmire fame.)

(Post-post script: Wyoming is in the throes of an interesting and vibrant primary election campaign.  We would recommend readers make themselves acquainted with all the candidates. These are good men and women, and they really want to go to work for you. Pay attention to their messages and then be sure to vote on Aug. 21.)

Bill Sniffin is a retired newspaper publisher who has penned a number of books about Wyoming. Check out additional columns written by Bill at www.billsniffin.com. and find volumes from his coffee table book series, which have sold over 30,000 copies, for sale at the News Letter Journal.

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