March 2014: The Children Are Tender

Caregiving, teaching little kids to read, and riding in the pickup with Farmer John; I tweet, pin, and blog, from my home in rural Kansas. If you've landed here looking for information about my books, visit my author's page by clicking this link: A. Born. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Gaps Versus Gates

He makes it look so easy.  

Despite town living during my formative years, I consider myself a farm girl because my roots run deep in the Ozark soil of my grandparents' Missouri farm home. That place became my heart's earthly home; it was at Grandma's house that I learned about the charms of a chicken house with cranky hens who would peck your hand if you tried to rob an egg, cast iron pumps that would yield water only with determined effort, and cane poles that required knowledge of how to pierce the living flesh of an earthworm who hadn't done anything to deserve it. There wasn't anyplace I loved better on this earth.

Grandpa's fields were surrounded by crooked log fence posts strung with four tightly stretched spans of barbed wire; a good four wire fence. His gates were built of hewn boards, later of metal pipe, and a lot of thought and effort went into them. He engineered his gates to swing silently open on well-oiled hinges. They were sturdy enough to climb and easy enough for a child to open. There were a few wire "gaps," on Grandpa's place, but they were considered inferior and Grandpa referred to them apologetically. A gap took time from a busy farmer's day, and Grandpa preferred his well built gates.

Grandpa farmed 80 acres of ground with the help of a Ford tractor deemed tiny by today's standards, and he kept his pastures mown for weed control and appearance. My grandparents' place was my gold standard of all a farm should be.

Then I married a Kansas farmer. In Kansas, there are no gaps, there are wire gates. The first time my husband referred to a gap as a gate, I politely corrected him, whereupon he corrected me: in Kansas, a gap is a wire gate, and gates such as the one Grandpa built are nice for folks who have lots of time to spend on such things, which Farmer John does not. John manages 3000 acres of farm ground and pasture all by himself. He's not so worried about appearances as he is about his bottom line, and he's a manly man. A few strands of barbed wire cause him no anxiety or inconvenience.

Not so, me.  Case in point, the other morning I went for a walk in the pasture across from our house. This requires climbing through a wire gap (I mean, gate), a skill I've honed over the years to the degree that even at my age and although I'm packing a few more pounds than I'd like, I'm proud to say I do well. I can slip through a small space bordered by rusty barbs that would require a tetanus shot if I erred an inch either way, and most times, emerge unscathed. But on this morning I had a problem. John had reinforced this gap, I mean gate, about every 12 inches with vertical lengths of twisted wire, because he has a calf that shares my skill in slipping through narrow places.  

I was going to have to open that wire gate, and I did not like the prospect. I very cautiously inched the restraining circle of barbed wire to the very top of the end post and jumped back, but to my relief the whole thing fell the opposite direction and my yellow lab and I continued our walk. Twenty minutes later I returned and lifted the end post. Five lengths of barbed wire sprang to malevolent life, each wire possessed by an independent directional goal to that of its neighbors. As I clung desperately to the post, it vibrated and jerked itself out of my hands.  My dog moved a cautious distance away as I repeated this effort several times. I finally managed to reattach the top circle of barbed wire, but was unable to fit the bottom of the post back into its smooth wire restraint.

I called my husband, who was working in a field five miles away.

"I can't get the gap shut," I said.

"Which gap? I mean, gate?" he asked.

There ensued one of those marital interchanges that are best not shared with others, but in the course of the conversation I decided to, one handed, slide the top wire down just a bit further for security's sake. Now, I swear to you this is true: the wire hopped about an inch down the post all by itself! When it landed, my thumb was secured between post and wire, and my poor, overworked husband then learned in great detail of my true, deeply held opinion of wire gates.

I extracted my thumb and went home. The cattle did not get out. And no mention was made that evening of my lack of skill in dealing with gaps. 

I mean, gates.