FROM: Bill Swart
A HORNEY DILEMMA
I didnít believe in reincarnation. But here I am, being interviewed by
a Worker Angel, getting the good-news-bad news treatment. Good news --
I can go back. Not-so-good news, every other reincarnation cycle must
be served as an animal. Next time I can go back in human form, but this
time itís fish, fowl or quadruped.
Me: So, how does it work? Do I have any options?
WA: Oh, of course, you have many options. You put your name in one of
these lottery boxes. The drawings are held every Monday, and youíll
have the results within six working days. Thatís six million
earth-years, but you have an eternity, so relax and enjoy the view.
(The turn-around time will be shorter when the heavenly host committee
decides on whether to go PC or Macintosh, but right now all the
assignment work is done by hand.) Hereís a list of the options.
Me: Well the horse box looks good. Iíve always loved horses. Do I get
to choose what breed Iíd be?
WA: Afraid not. You might go back as a working draft horse, a mustang,
a show horse, or a teasing stallion, a . . .
Me: Whatís a teasing stallion? Sounds like a hunk who does womenís
WA: No, itís a horse, a stallion thatís not of breeding quality. Heís
kept to check mares to see if they are in heat and receptive to being
bred. They bring the mare and the teasing stallion nose-to-nose. If the
mare is in the mood, she will show it by equine-coquettish behavior.
(Sheíll squat and squeal and pee.) Then the teasing stallion is put
back in his stall, and the breeding stallion is brought out to
consummate the union. They do it that way to reduce the risk of the
valuable breeding stallion injuring itself in its excitement, or kicking
the handler in case the mare is not receptive.
Itís a rather cushy position. You will be well cared for, kept in a
clean stall, fed and watered regularly, and have no heavy lifting or
pulling to do. All you have to do is squeal and paw the ground when
brought close to a mare so she will realize you are a stud, and let
everybody know if she has the hots for you.
Me: Cushy or not, doing foreplay for some stud muffin is not my notion
of a good incarnation. What are my chances of going back as a stallion
of breeding quality, so I get to consummate, as it were?
WA: Oh, pretty good. And, if you are of exceptional conformation and
ability, the consummation might be by artificial insemination, so you
will pass your proud genes on to many progeny. As a sperm donor, you
will not actually complete the messy part, and you wonít have to worry
about catching a dirty disease. Theyíll have you mount a mare, but fake
it, and deposit the semen into an artificial thing.
There is a down side though. You will be trained and ridden in several
shows each year until your back begins to sag a bit with age.
Me: And what will I do when Iím not donating or showing off at the
WA: You will live in a roomy box stall, about the size of a bedroom.
You will be quite pampered, groomed regularly, fed only the highest
quality grains and vitamins, and have a better health plan than your
trainer has. If you so much as sneeze, a vet will make a barn call.
Me: You mean Iíll live my life in a 12-foot by 12-foot box? Iím
likely never to do the messy thing, and . . .
WA: Well, itís a chance you take. You might come back as a mustang,
roaming free in Oklahoma, fighting other stallions and doing the messy
thing. Of course, Oklahoma outdoors in the winter can be chilly.
Me: Never mind. Iíll pass on the horse lottery. The dog box looks more
promising. What are my chances of going back as a kept dog, a house pet
with a good health plan?
WA: Well, not so good. Itís the supply and demand thing. The dog box
is so popular. Everybody would like to be an Irish Setter lying in
front of a fireplace. And from what I gather about your reaction to
living as a horse in a stall, you might not want to risk life on a
chain, barking at squirrels.
Me: Where in blazes, pardon the expression, are the animal-rights
people? Why arenít they picketing stables where half-ton animals live
most of their lives in a 12 by 12-foot box?
WA: You have to understand that the horse-in-the box isnít
seen as a problem by the animal-righter. The stable is clean and airy. There is
a Cadillac out front. The horse chow is the best. The health plan is .
Me: I know, and the sperm donor doesnít catch a disease. What about
this "meat box" on your list?
WA: Now I gather from your comments so far that you might like to spend
an incarnation as a specimen from that box. Thereís always high demand
for beef cattle. And they arenít confined to box stalls. They live in
roomy outdoor feed lots, and . . .
Me: My voice rising, hold on now. You canít be serious. If I have a
choice, you think Iíd choose to have my bullhood cut out, to stand
around and eat like a pig for a year or so, then be dragged into a
slaughter house to have my throat cut, hung up on a hook, and cut into
WA: Now hold on to your bullhood for a minute. Thereís an upside to
that box. Since the beef thing doesnít appeal to many men -- their life
expectancy is a few months, and their sex life is zilch -- thereís a
special deal. A beef critter might weigh about a thousand pounds. So
weíve included elk in that box. They weigh about a thousand pounds,
more or less. And you get a 50/50 shot at drawing the elk ticket.
Under this deal, if you go back as a bull elk, and are shot by a hunter,
you will provide somebody with a thousand pounds of meat, and you reduce
the carnage in the slaughter house by one beef soul.
Me: Good Lord, getting shot isnít all that appealing.
WA: Yes, but remember, as an elk you have a good chance of living for
ten or fifteen years, especially if you are not so vain that you grow
especially attractive antlers. You get to run free, and if you are even
moderately good at sparring with other bulls, youíll get lucky. Your
average cow elk is not impressed by trophy antlers.
I do see one problem though that Iím sure rules out the meat box for
you. I see in your resume under "Good Works," that in your last
incarnation you contributed to PETA, People For The Ethical Treatment of
Animals. So Iím sure that you would not want to risk adding to the
population of animals subjected to hunting.
Me: Well, donít go jumping to angelic conclusions. Let me see if I
understand. If I choose the meat box, I could be born an Angus bull
calf, have my bullhood cut out, eat, drink, but not make merry, for a
few months, be knocked in the head, and turned into hamburger and hiking
Or, I might be the son and heir of a bull elk, live free for six or
eight years, and then substitute for a Holstein? Itís a moral dilemma.
Can I take a while to think it over?
WA: Donít take too long. There is a very articulate fellow named
Amery, from Cleveland as I recall, who has special affection for
Holsteins. When he gets up here we expect him to form Angels for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals, to lobby the Head Man to terminate the
special elk-deal for the meat box, and limit it to domestic cattle.
By the eternal time clock you might have only a split second to elect to
go back as a beef-substitute-elk. So donít dawdle. If you donít make a
selection, your name goes into the default box, and you risk going back
as a pet rabbit, to live your life lying on your belly in a cage the
size of a bread box.