Everybody Needs An Old Cuss Or Two

On The Back Page With Daryl Gay, February 2005

Daryl Gay | February 3, 2005

That New Year’s resolution sure didn’t last long, did it?

Hey, it’s only February, and you’ve already fallen off the “I’m gonna lose 50 pounds bandwagon” haven’t you?

I know the feeling. But don’t fret; As always, I have a solution. What you need is to be purchased by an Old Cuss. Oh, they don’t really “own” you. They just think they do, and they’re marvelous at convincing you of it.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be owned by two Old Cusses. And right here we need to stop and define just what constitutes the proper Old Cuss.

For starters, he don’t necessarily cuss. I prefer it that way. However, you will quickly ascertain that an Old Cuss don’t care a whit of a snort of a hoot about your preferences one way or t’other. What an Old Cuss does care about is an Old Cuss, namely hisself.

And while an Old Cuss may not always be properly categorized as “mean,” “ornery” will most always fill the bill.

And sometimes “pitiful.” Or, as one of my Old Cuss owners would say, “peeeteefulll…”

When he’s feeling pitiful, an Old Cuss can take 25 pounds off you in a week’s time.

Let us elucidate thusly…

The first order for an Old Cuss is to be old, right? As such, there are times when he begins to feel he simply cannot go on about the daily tasks of life, no matter how simple, and especially if any heavy lifting or redundant motion are involved.

These times always, always come when you are available and at his beck and call.


STOP right there, and recognize a warning symbol that might as well be a red flag. Any time you are referred to by that name — as opposed to Lunkhead, Scatterbrain or Idjit — trouble ain’t a far piece off.

The more pitiful you are summoned, the likelier you are to require back surgery after performing whatever dastardly deed he had in mind to begin with. I’m put in mind of my favorite hunting Old Cuss — as opposed to my No. 1 fishing Old Cuss — who taught me an awful lot about chasing down all manner of things through the woods and fields. I’ve written of him in Rabbit Stompin’, but there’s always a trick or two that gets left out. I’ll also inform you that he had to leave early, and that not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and miss him a heap. Like the time he fell into a hole…

Oh, you think that’s funny? Just try getting him out.

“Blarst you, you Lamebrained Leadfooted Knucklehead, whyn’t you tell me they was holes to Chinee amongst them briars?”

I’m standing there gawking at an Old Cuss who has one leg sunk clean out of sight and stretching into nowhere and the other bent at an impossible angle with him sitting atop it. And while attempting to calculate how many fractures that folded leg has, I suddenly realize that he’s as limber as Stretch Armstrong and not injured at all. Heavy, as I was about to find out, but not injured.

See, I’ve been chasing his rabbit dogs and their rabbit around in ever-smaller circles for three hours now, and I’ve got to sit down and rest five minutes to get up enough breath for it to qualify my last one.

He’s taken the smart route by standing still near where the rabbit was jumped, and maybe the third or fourth step of the morning lands him up to his nevermind in the abode of a former pine stump. Serves him right, I figger, but if I don’t help him out, all his caterwaulin’ will turn the rabbit again and we’ll never get a shot.

“Haul me up outta here before I start taking potshots,” he warns, and I’m thinking he’s maybe half kidding at best.

“Why don’t you go on a diet or three?” I grunt as vertebrae — mine — go to twanging and cracking and snapping. Hauling under his shoulders moves him maybe a foot, and already I feel as if I’ve done a dozen sets of upper-back reps with a couple hundred pounds. His muddy overalls weigh more than that.

“Gonna be a shame to have to shoot that rabbit while you’re picking lead shot out of your behind,” he grunts.

“I’m gonna chain you to the truck and drag your old carcass all the way to town if you keep threatening me,” I reply. But he don’t back down.

“I can tell you ain’t never been shot, much less cut. I wonder what your ears would look like with my initials carved in the back of them?”

I’d seen him sit and sharpen that six-inch Barlow until it would shave a sheep, so with an involuntary shudder and a final heave, I hefted him clear.


Yeah, right then is when a brown hairball whirled by like a lightning bolt running along the ground.

“See thar, if’n you had’a just told me about that hole, I’d a had that ’un dead to rights,” he yammered, drowning out the beagle pack as it roared by. “Here I am supposed to be rabbit hunting, and you keep a poor old soul penned up in a hole just to have all the shooting to yourself. Yessir, a young man will take advantage of an old man every time…”

It gets pitifuller and pitifuller until I regain enough breath to resume the chase, hoping all the while he’ll stand still and won’t find any more holes to plunge off into.

Fortunately, we run into nothing more complicated than extricating him from a bamboo thicket (once) and a barbed-wire fence (twice). This last is so traumatizing to the Old Cuss that I carry his shotgun and even his four (FOUR!) boxes of shells back to the truck at morning’s end, hoping against hope all the way that I won’t end up carrying HIM!


I involuntarily jerk bolt upright — which my back immediately reminds me is a major mistake — to head him off at the pass. But there’s not a chance.

“Think we might could put the dogs in one more time this afternoon over on Old Man Smoots’ place? If you’ll just catch up the dogs…”

Ever tried catching up a pack of dogs that don’t really care to be caught? If you have ends on all your fingers, the answer likely is NO.

But if you want to catch up with that resolution in a large hurry, find you an Old Cuss to pacify. He’ll have you down to skin and bones in no time at all…

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.