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Short, Short Story - The Government Man

Updated on October 27, 2011

The Government Man


The old rancher sat on the porch and watched the stranger come up the road. He knew he was a stranger because he knew every man-jack in the county, and how they sat a horse. This here was a stranger, sure enough.

He’d finished his morning chores, and eaten breakfast, and now he was enjoying his last cup of coffee. The boys were out by the spring, cleaning it out and getting ready for the spring roundup. The next two weeks would be hard and dusty work, but he’d loved it since he was a boy. This ranch had been founded by his grandfather and passed down through his father to him. It was the only life he had ever known.

He pulled his pipe out of his pants pocket, and eyed it. The stranger was walking his horse down the lane and slowly looking all around. He got out his penknife and scraped out the boll. Satisfied, he refilled it with Bull Durham and tamped it down, lighting it with a match he'd scraped to life on the porch rail in front of him.

The stranger rode into the yard and drew up in front of the porch. For a long moment, the two men regarded each other. Then the old rancher spoke.

“Light and set, stranger. Ma will fetch you a cup of coffee.”

The stranger swung down, and walked closer.

“No, thank you. I’m here on official United States Government business. I’ve come to inspect this ranch for safety violations.”

The old man removed the pipe from his mouth and spat into the dust, landing just in front of the stranger’s boots.

“I’m J. P. Watson, owner and proprietor and this here ranch don’t need no inspection.”

“I’m Bertram Bartholomew, and I am here on official government business. My card sir.”

He handed the old man an embossed United States Government calling card, identifying himself as an official.

“That card, sir, is all I need. It is my authority, and not to be disputed!”

J. P. Watson studied the card for a long minute and handed it back.

“Well, I don’t want to go against the law, so I reckon you can go ahead and inspect.”

Half an hour later, the inspector returned with a list.

“Your branding irons have no labels warning about being hot, and the steps to your bunkhouse have no handrail. Those are serious violations sir! I will now inspect your fields.”

The old man exploded. “There ain’t nothing wrong with my fields! You just get on your damn horse and ride out of here!”

Bertram Bartholomew presented his card again, and smiled.

The old man sat down, and scowled.

Fifteen minutes later, he heard terrified screams coming from behind the barn. As he watched, Bertram Bartholomew appeared, running for his life as a giant, long-horned bull closed in on him.

“Help me! Please help me, I beg you!”

The old man slowly got to his feet, and cupped his hands around his mouth.

“Show him your card!”




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    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Suzie, for reading!

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 3 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Good one - thanks for the smiles.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Linda!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      LOL! Those cards come in handy, most of the time! :)

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Ayn Rand has nothing on me!

      ^_^

    • weestro profile image

      Pete Fanning 5 years ago from Virginia

      Loved it, like an Atlas Shrugged western! Voted up across board!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Clairepeek, and thank you!

    • Clairepeek profile image

      Clairepeek 5 years ago

      Dear Will,

      Ahahah! Tremendous... "show him your card", loved it. Your pencil is sharp ^_^

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 5 years ago from Tennesee

      ROFLOL! Will, I dearly love this one!!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I agree, feenix!

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 5 years ago

      Hey, Will,

      One thing about bulls is that they don't stand for no bull shit.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Eiddwen!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, MizBejabbers!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, WD Curry 111!

      Could be!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Hi Will,

      Wow I had to go through what must have been comments from most of the population of HP before getting here.

      Easy to see why so many loved this one.

      A great beginning which made me feel I was there as well and then the oh so clever final twist ;amazing !!!

      Take care and have a great day.

      Eiddwen.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 5 years ago

      Just voted you up, Will. Love that western humor!

    • WD Curry 111 profile image

      WD Curry 111 5 years ago from Space Coast

      Are you sure this wasn't a story about Old Man Platt in Fellsmere? They have longhorns on that ranch.

      No . . . it was a gator that got after that Yankee.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Zac828!

    • Zac828 profile image

      Zac828 5 years ago from England

      Brilliant! Voted up.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, ThomasRydder, and thanks for reading me!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Sunnie Day, and thanks for the great comment!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, ThoughtSandwiches,

      McDonald's was successfully sued because their coffee was not labeled 'hot'!

      OSHA demands such labeling.

    • profile image

      ThomasRydder 5 years ago

      Bertram Bartholomew? OMG, I can still see the Oxfords, flood pants, and skinny tie. TOO good, Will...you grab your audience with the first paragraph, and then shake'm like a rag doll...:)TR

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 5 years ago

      Go Longhorns! Great and wonderful story Will..and that is no bull..

      Love,

      Sunnie

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Hi Will...

      Thanks for the smiles on this one! The sad reality of branding irons needing to be labeled as 'hot' is just...sad. And that is what makes it so funny here! Because it's true...

      Thanks,

      Thomas

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Sueswan, and thank you!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, suziecat7! You just wrote a winner!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, teamrn! I knew you'd like it!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, SilverGenes!

      Happy to make you smile!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Pamela99, and thanks for laughing!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, marcoujor!

      Hope you're doing well with all that early snow!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, attemptedhumour!

      I'm taking a shot at your world!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, homesteadbound!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Barb.

      I'm sorry to hear about your mom.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Just Ask Susan,

      Maybe you should hire a bull?

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Genna East!

      Good to see you.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Admiral_Joraxx!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, thelyricwriter, and thank you!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Ronnie! How about another great cop story?

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, G-Ma Johnson, and thank you!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, drbj!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Hyphenbird!

      Thanks for reading.

    • profile image

      Sueswan 5 years ago

      Love it!!

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Ha! Thanks for the chuckle - loved it!

    • teamrn profile image

      teamrn 5 years ago from Chicago

      Will, GREAT STORY, and THAT'S NO BULL!!

    • profile image

      SilverGenes 5 years ago

      I didn't see the end coming and it put a big smile on my face when it arrived! Well done!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

      Wonderfully, funny short story. I love the ending.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      My face hurts from smiling so hard. You are a mental umbrella on this snowy day in PA...!

      Voted UP & FAB-- have a great weekend, mar.

    • attemptedhumour profile image

      attemptedhumour 5 years ago from Australia

      A load of old bull is normally frowned upon, but not in this case. I loved how you set the scene with the old rancher lighting his pipe. It created such a vivid picture, something that you are a master at. Cheers Will.

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 5 years ago from Texas

      That was really a good one! Great read!

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Nailed it.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This was great! LOL.

      Every five years or so our home owners insurance company insists on doing a walk through our house. All they ever do is up the insurance after the walk through. Next time they come through I think I'll let them deal with my 2 dogs rather than putting the dogs outside :)

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Lol! This is great.

      “The old man removed the pipe from his mouth and spat into the dust, landing just in front of the stranger’s boots.”

      I can just picture this along with so many moments in this wonderful story. Loved it! Voted up and much more.

    • Admiral_Joraxx profile image

      Admiral_Joraxx 5 years ago from Philippines

      Haha! When you take on a business, it will take everyone involved, including an angry bull who cannot read a card! Too bad, hehe! when you are at the wrong place at the wrong time. Disaster happens. Great post Will Starr! Voted up and funny.=)

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 5 years ago from West Virginia

      Hey there Mr. Will. Another great classic my friend. I bet that will teach him! Voted up, interesting, and funny.

    • resspenser profile image

      Ronnie Sowell 5 years ago from South Carolina

      "I'm from the government and I'm here to help ya!" Sure.

      Great hub, voted up!

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 5 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      Sounds familiar...like a joke I heard long ago...Great story tho...:O) Hugs G-Ma Wish it was that easy today....

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      The denouement at the end, Will, is so good for a moment I thought I had written it. Heh, heh.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I love it! And I love your talent. Perfect ending WillStarr.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Well, thank you, Twilight Lawns!

      What a nice thing to say!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, FitnezzJim, and that ain't no bull!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, b. Malin,

      Sometimes authority doesn't mean much.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Phyllis Doyle, and thank you!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, always exploring, and cheers to you!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, VendettaVixen, and I appreciate it!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Susieq42, and I can picture that bull!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, James A Watkins!

      Thank you for your great comments, my friend!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Debby Bruck! Happy to make you smile!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, pedrn44!

      Happy to amuse!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Amanda Storm, and thanks for reading me!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Lynn S. Murphy, and thank you!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Cardisa, and it was a man-eating bull!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Nan!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, MartieCoetser, and thanks for the visit!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Rosie2010, and thank you sweetie!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Dex!

      The government will never learn!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, SubRon7, and thank you!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, GNelson, and I'm not sure what you mean.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Chris!

      Thank you!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, ubanichijioke, and thanks for reading!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, ruffridyer!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, dahoglund, and I know what you mean!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Bob! Glad you enjoyed it.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, femmeflashpoint, and you're right!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Rosemay50, and yes, we should all own such a bull!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, AmaTainted, and I loved your comment!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Pollyannalana!

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Lovely Will. You are a master story teller of the highest capability. I am always amazed how quickly I feel as if I am in a time and a place I have never entered, and then you come along, and it feels like home.

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      Phrases like "I'm from the government and I'm here to help" take on a whole new meaning if we ever recover that belief that "We the People" are the government.

      Bull or no bull. :)

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 5 years ago

      Loved the Ending and didn't see it coming, nor did "Bertram Bartholomew". Sometimes you just gotta kick Regulations to the curb! Good One, Will.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      HAHaHa, This is funny. Cheers...

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      I love it! This is an Up and Awesome hub, Will. Love that old farmer...what a guy!

    • VendettaVixen profile image

      VendettaVixen 5 years ago from Ireland

      Will, fantastic writing as usual. The tone was lovely and casual throughout, but of course my favourite part was the ending. Brilliant.

      Keep 'em good'uns comin'!

    • profile image

      Susieq42 5 years ago

      Great story, Will, only I'd like to see Obama as the government agent! Now that would really make me laugh. Have a blessed day.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

      I love this story. You are one outstanding writer, my friend. I love the way you use the English language, such as:

      "a match he'd scraped to life on the porch rail"

      Awesome!

      I also appreciate AmaTainted's hilarious line:

      "I see the government man can dish out the bull but not take it"

      CMerritt's comment is great:

      "I love happy endings!" :D

      But the funniest thing on this page is of course:

      “Show him your card!”

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 5 years ago

      Terrific! This put a smile on my face.

    • pedrn44 profile image

      Sandi 5 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      Love your story! Funny!

    • profile image

      Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

      I totally love your characters and the sense of humor. Made my day!

    • Amanda Storm profile image

      Amanda Storm 5 years ago

      Had a good laugh at the ending ... voted up, funny, and interesting.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 5 years ago from Jamaica

      Will you are hilarious, where do you get your stories....LOL

      I can't stop laughing as I imagine that darn bull chasing Dexter....er..Bartholomew..lol