Rice ‘n’ Beans

“What’s on for tonight?” Shouts the head cattle-hand. He says it loud enough for all the other men to hear. The boss pricks up his ears, fearing there’s going to be trouble. “White caviar and French kidney!” Comes a holler from behind the chuck wagon. The cook produces a steaming pot and starts serving its contents on plates. The men are baffled. Where’d the cook get such fancy ingredients out here on the prairie, in the middle of a cattle drive?

“Kidney beans and rice?” The youngest drover pushes the food around with his spoon. “But, this ain’t no different to what we have every night.”

“Shuddup and eat your caviar.” The head cattle-hand knows how to have a laugh.

The next day the process is the same, but the cook’s response is different. “We’re havin’ ‘Montezuma’s last meal’ tonight boys.” They dig in heartily, imagining the Aztec king savouring his final rice and beans as a Spanish prisoner.

Next night it’s “Cajun Delight”, then “Riso e Fagioli” delivered with an appropriately over-the-top Italian accent; then there’s “brown berries and sprinkles”; then there’s “prairie strawberries and granular cream.”

The drovers push the herd by a town and the cook and his louse are able to resupply. The men have all been getting along so well that the cook decides to buy a bag of sugar, to treat the boys a little.

The next two nights the boys get rice and sugar for dessert. First it’s “sweet angel sprinkles,” then it’s “South American pudding.” When the sugar finally runs out the tensions rise once more. “Where’s our ‘fairy dandruff’ old-timer?” Protests the head cattle-hand.

“That’s enough of that,” rebuffs the cook, explaining that he’s simply out of sugar. The protests come in fast, and the cook can handle it no more. “Look, it’ll be one course meals from now on, and I ain’t gettin’ no more sugar for you ungrateful cow-lovers. Unless you lay off o’ me you won’t get no ‘Cuban Arroz Congri’, or ‘Moors n’ Christians’. It’ll be nothin’ but ‘albino mouse droppings and dog balls’!”

The drovers take the threat very seriously. They’d much prefer a Mexican delicacy over domestic pet anatomy, even when either way, it’s just rice and beans.



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