Always double check your salt shakers! (Regarding oxen training)

On April Fools day 1999, my father made the same exact breakfast he’d made every single morning for the past 15 years. He poached two eggs in the same steel pot on our electric GE stove and boiled some broccoli  with a splash of apple cider vinegar. Then, only after thoroughly dousing the food with enough salt to preserve the mummified King Tut himself, my father carried his plate to the same spot at the kitchen counter that he’d sat in for fifteen years and turned on Fox news. All was the same.

Only it wasn’t.

Little did he know, earlier that morning, his 11-year-old daughter had poured all the salt down the sink and refilled the shaker with sugar.  Dad was oblivious.

He took his first bite of egg and realized it didn’t taste quite right.

“Must need more salt,” he thought.  He shook  more on and took another bite.

“Still not salty enough,” he thought. He shook even more on and took another bite. Then and only then, when my father’s eggs were fully doused in sugar, did he  realize he’d been duped by his daughter. My dad laughed off his defeat  with the same good-sport humor that he held during every other piece of mischief I ever inflicted on him and poached new eggs.

The point is, it’s difficult for people to second guess what they have always known to be true. The salt shaker might have held salt yesterday, but  who’s to say it holds salt today? Training Merle and Roy has forced me to overcome this hesitancy to second guess myself.  For about a year I’ve been training my oxen one way, getting into a routine that had long since stopped working. My boys were becoming more and more unmanageable and the progress I did make was extremely slow.  The more I stuck to the same routine, letting my boys get out of hand, the more I was just throwing sugar onto my eggs. I needed to double check my salt shaker.

I did this through help  from an experienced trainer by the name of Bea. She deserves a huge thank you  because after working with her two weeks ago for just one training session, the boys have become remarkably more manageable and really an all around pleasure to work with. Merle and Roy are more affectionate than ever and I have been able to work them for longer periods in all kinds of distraction-oriented environments.  I can’t wait to give more updates on their progress in the coming days and show photos of all the things they’ll be pulling! (The muzzle is to prevent trouble-maker Roy from grazing.)


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