I understand the Army pays people hard money to identify practices, machinery and buildings subject to “altered functionalities,” which means creating something for one purpose and adapting it to another.
For example, buildings that at one time in the military housed large, free-standing computers continue to be restructured into multi-function training centers.
To stay in business, Daddy, without using the approved terminology, became adept at “functionality altering.” Of course, he never changed the function of milk cows which was to give milk, take a maternity leave, birth a calf and renew milk donations for the socio-economic benefit of the Jap Hatley Family.
Besides switching from hand-milking to machine-milking and from shipping milk in 10-gallon cans to bulk-shipping milk in 18-wheel tank trucks, the major “functionality” change I recall occurred when Wingo Feed Company in Sulphur Springs quit selling dairy feed to Daddy by the burlap sack.
Changing from sack feed to bulk feed had several unintended consequences for our mouse population.
Our mice quickly fell in love with the bulk feed concept. Since, during the milking year, it was too time consuming to scrape up and use every last grain of bulk feed from each load, Wingo’s feed truck was piling new feed on old feed.
Because our feed had high syrup content, Wingo Feed Company unintentionally made a major contribution to low-cost apartment housing for mice in the caked feed on the concrete floor of our feed room. Hatley Mice were no longer forced to move to eat; anytime, day or night, they could nibble on the sides of their apartments. (Urban planners take note.)
But for Hatley Mice, there came a reckoning even more vicious than that of the Earp brothers in the movie “Tombstone.”
Sometime during the spring, Daddy would say, “Donald Wade, get the corn scoop ... time to scrape the feed room floor and kill the mice.”
Mostly, my job was to knock the caked feed loose and shovel it into a wheelbarrow. Daddy’s job was to kill the mice by grabbing them in his bare hands and crushing their heads.
Uncle Dub Collins, who married Rosie Pearl, Momma’s baby sister, checked electrical voltage with his bare hands; Daddy killed mice with his, proving yet again that country living requires healthy innovation.
On one particular Mouse Killing Day, I finished my job before Daddy finished his, with eight or 10 mice still running from corner to corner.
I grabbed my trusty baseball bat used for hitting rocks in imaginary baseball games and contributed souls to Mouse Heaven. Then, there was only one mouse between Daddy and me. I swung my heavy timber at the mouse at the same time Daddy reached for it, interjecting his hand between my bat and the mouse. I smashed his thumb into the concrete floor with considerable force.
Daddy shook his hand and cussed. When he slowed down, I could see the thumbnail on his right hand was already dark black, but, praises be, he could still work his thumb joint.
For almost ruining one of his hands forever, I deserved a beating within an inch of life But, Daddy spoke to me in cool, measured, non-threatening words.
Why? Since he was not all that religious, maybe Daddy thought, with unassailable cause for justifiable homicide, he would earn favor with the Almighty for not killing me.
“Donald Wade,” he said, “Don’t use a baseball bat to kill mice around me again.”
“I won’t Daddy. I promise.”
Neither of us mentioned the baseball bat incident again, although, for as long as he lived, he and I celebrated Earth’s eternal spring renewal in Northeast Texas with Mouse Killing Day.