I am saddened to report that yet another of my plans seems to
have gone awry. .. I really thought that this one might go big,
but I guess I was wrong.
You see, .. The beautiful and talented Peggy Ann and I are going
to have to give up that property we leased last year. .. You know, the parcel
right along the side of I-75 just south of the Tennessee border. ..
That's the place where we had the Spring puppy match. ..
I was convinced that an ambition I had kept inside since I was
a little boy would work out for us. It just could have been the road to fame
and fortune too.
"Peggy Ann," I said, " .. Peggy Ann, there's no money in
raising German Shepherds. .. Oh sure, it's a nice hobby, but
there's nothing left after the handlers, vets, magazines, feed
stores, photographers and the like take their pieces of the pie.
.. Shoot! .. Purebred dogs would have to multiply like cats for
us to make a cent. .. Even the U.S. government is starting to
use mongrels to sniff drugs. .. I think it's either some kind of
budget cut or one of those equal opportunity things."
My daddy had always told me to find something that everybody
wanted and then sell it to them. .. He wasn't a rich man
himself, but he was adamant that I not make the same mistakes he
"Son," he used to say, " .. Look around you. .. Don't you see
something that many people would really like to have but that,
for some reason, they can't get? .. Look around you, son. ..
Supply and demand! .. Find that need, my boy!" .. That's what he
used to say. .. He did say that!
Well, I did look around. .. I thought I had it when I came up
with the idea for that pin-up calendar devoted totally to
provocative shots of female heavy equipment operators. .. That
didn't pan out. .. The feminists said that I was exploitative.
.. The men said I was just crazy as Hell. .. I did make a buck
from those tattoo parlor endorsements though, now that I think
I persevered. .. I didn't get discouraged. .. .. I had become
toughened by those really close losses in the "Bred By" ring. ..
Oh sure, my idea for "Hula Ovals" came close. .. I just wasn't
fast enough with that one.
Peggy Ann was the one who put her foot down when she found out
about my plans for a chain of one-stop, "Hasty-Lube/PAP-Smear"
shops. .. I still believe in that one. .. Would have been a big time saver. ..
After our bagpipe tuning service went belly up and the breakdancers' union
fell apart, my work was cut out for me.
I want you to know that I thought long and hard before I came
upon this "owl" idea. .. I wasn't going to be fooled again. .. I
was certain of that much. .. I would take my time with this one.
.. No rushing to judgment. .. This time I would ride along with
something I knew for sure.
I knew for sure that the world was full of lawns. .. I knew for
sure that pink plastic flamingos were "out". .. I was even
sensitive enough to know for sure that "lawn jockeys" could
never again be politically correct. .. Everyone knows for sure
that white-painted auto tires filled with Petunias are really
nice. That's why they're already everywhere. .. I settled on the
owls, don't you know. .. Beautiful cement owls.
After I had done my market survey, I became even more
convinced. .. Astonished actually! .. Of all the lawns I had
surveyed, not one .. (I know this is going to be hard to believe
now, but ..) .. not even one was graced with a large cement owl
staring out at me.
I saw lots of deer, frogs, .. some bird baths, .. statues of
assorted saints, and even one bust of Timothy Leary with a corncob in
his nose for the squirrels to munch on but, .. no sir! .. not one
Well, .. once I dropped that little bomb on Peggy Ann, she
began to get really excited. .. The need was there all right. ..
The only thing we had to do was to fill it.
That's why we leased the land. .. That's why I moved that
double-wide onto the property and set up shop in there, and
that's why I started cranking out owls faster than Peggy Ann
could drag them out front to the lot. .. I had made the first
ninety or so, when I decided to take a break. .. It was a nice
day, so we set up the lawn chairs and the umbrella out there
right next to our "flock".
I want you to know that cars went whizzing past us all that
afternoon and that not one of them stopped. .. Not even a toot.
.. "Tuned-in" male that I am, I quickly sensed that Peggy Ann
was becoming a tad impatient when she looked at me and said,
"Look, R.C.! .. Nobody's stoppin'. .. Nobody wants your
freakin', stupid cement owls! .. They're useless!" ..
Now you must understand that the beautiful and talented Peggy
Ann doesn't have the same innate, subtle, and complex business
sense that is my blessing. .. You may have guessed, but I
figured the problem out out right away. It was obviously the
speed limit. .. At sixty-five miles an hour, neither driver nor
passenger could tell what it was we had displayed there. .. Some
folks even told us later that they had thought that they were
passing some kind of a sick, cultist cemetery. .. Hey! ..I could
I told Peggy Ann. .. I said, "Peggy Ann, they just ain't
seein'. .. Either that or they ain't believin' what they're seein'. ..
What we need is advertising. .. Yes ma'm. ..Advertising!"
I sent Peggy Ann off into town to look into a nice billboard
for us. .. We covered our owl display with a couple of large
tarps of course. .. We didn't want to cause an accident if
someone driving by out there on the interstate should catch on
to what we really had there. .. I went back to pouring more
owls, knowing that, once the rush started, we would not want to
be caught short. .. I must have finished thirty or forty more
before the billboard was delivered just a few days later. .. A
nice one it was too. ..
I fought the natural urge that most common folks would have
had. .. You know, the urge to do the obvious like: .. hang up
multi-colored pennants; .. have pony rides, or give away free
fireworks with every purchase. .. You see, I read "Forbes"
religiously every month, so I decided to keep our advertising
simple, upbeat, and very high class. .. The twenty-five by
thirty foot sign was light green. .. In large deep red letters
it read, "OWLS!" with an arrow pointing off toward the
assemblage. .. I figured that the more educated passer-by might
be smitten by literary allusion (You know. .. Scarlet Letter? ..
That kind of thing.) and immediately might think, "Oh look!
..Owls!" .. The exclamation point was done in Day-Glo orange. ..
That was my idea too. ..
We leaned it up against the side of the trailer.
"There! .. That oughtta do it." .. and it would have done it
too, if those wretched Department of Transportation people
hadn't made us take down our brand new sign that very same day.
.. I tried to explain to them that MicroSoft had started this
way, but nobody would listen. .. You would have thought the
cement owl was an endangered specie the way they came down on
us. .. I'll never understand it. .. Guns! .. Dogs! .. S.W.A.T.!
.. Tear gas! .. It was ugly!
Well, I wasn't at all surprised when, without our sign, we sold
only one owl. .. That one went to a thoughtful young man on his
way back up North from spring break in Florida. .. He said that
he wanted to get something special for his mother, .. something
she would never buy for herself. .. He seemed to think that a
nice cement owl would fill the bill. .. He was happy as a clam
when the three of us hoisted a real beauty into his trunk. .. I
gave him the brochure we had prepared. .. It included
instructions and explained how, in a real pinch, his owl could
prop up a porch about as well as anything he might find out back
in the barn. .. He smiled and waved to us as he left. .. I told
him to be careful and that a Honda can handle funny with 290
pounds of nearly-dry cement in the trunk. .. Never heard from
him again. .. I guess, somewhere up North, there is one happy
mother. .. I think he said that she lived in Detroit.
Well that's behind us now. .. I'm already really getting revved
up about this new plan that I have. .. I'm sticking with what I
know. .. Yes sir. .. I'm combining what we learned through our
years of breeding and showing dogs with the natural talent I
discovered that I seem to have for public relations and
advertising. .. Sure, it's going to be "high tech". .. One has
to keep up, you know. .. Of course I realize my own limitations.
First I have to convince the A.K.C. (That's the American Kennel
Club.) that they need to rename the various breeds of dogs as
well as the groups in which they place them. .. Those fellows up
there are going to have to get more realistic! .. That's all
there is to it. .. Most "herding dogs" don't live anywhere near
a sheep or a herd of anything else for that matter. .. A man can get
arrested for using a "Deerhound" to hunt a real deer. .. When is the
last time you saw an otter anywhere? .. Huh? .. How about an elk? ..
Get serious! .. I want you to know that, except for that one incident
a week from last Thursday, I had never seen an "Irish Wolf" anywhere
near my yard. .. Really! ..
Let's face facts now. .. Our dogs don't actually "do" anything!
.. They normally spend most of their time just waiting for something, ..
anything .., to happen. Don't they now?
Here's how out-of-hand things have gotten. .. A terrier by
definition is, " .. a small and courageous variety of dog that
follows animals into their holes or burrows." .. I can
understand that. .. like, "Rat Terriers" and "Fox Terriers". ..
Now I read in "Dog World" that there are also "Bull Terriers",
and, to top even that, "Clydesdale Terriers". .. Look! .. We
need either to change those names or to change that definition
of "terrier" to read something like, " .. follows animals into their
burrows, pastures, or stables. .. also known for its lack of good judgment."
We need names that reflect reality. .. We need to update the
"Working Group" so that its members can do work that really
needs to be done. .. We need a "German Laundry Dog", a
"Norwegian Sweeper", and a "Belgian Oil Changer". .. Maybe even
a "French Silverware Polisher" or a "Rhodesian Recycler" might be
in order. ..
OK! .. So a "German Laundry Dog" doesn't actually do the
laundry. .. Shoot, the average German Shepherd wouldn't know a
sheep if one crawled into the crate with him. .. Well? .. Would
I can find fifty goats within three miles of my place. .. Do
you think there's a sheep anywhere nearby? .. No! .. Is there a
"Goatherd" in the A.K.C. book? .. Hell no! .. (I'm sorry. .. I
really get emotional about this.)
Once these changes have been made, maybe we can have real field
trials and make awards for real contributions to easing the
human condition. .. "Truth in Naming" .. that's what we'll call
it. .. I can see a "Lounging Group", a "Just Cute Group", a
"Waitin' for Something to Happen Group", and maybe a "Get Outta
My Face Group", for example. .. Then we'll have something honest
and people will relate to it.
I haven't worked out the "high tech" part, or the money making
part yet, but you'll have to admit that the "need" is there. ..
Can't deny that anymore, can you? .. Nope! .. You can't.