Musings and Misadventures

Burning Daylight

I guess the work is never caught up on any farm or ranch. I get up every morning and start literally running from one job to the next, terrified of falling even further behind on my chore list until eventually by evening I tire and weaken, throw up my hands in the air and go in search of a glass of wine. First thing in the morning though, the pressure gauge is running way over in the WARNING range. I swear, I’m turning into my father. I didn’t quite grasp as a kid why Daddy was constantly running around saying “Come on! We are burning daylight!”

Ok. I get it, Dad.

The summer routine around here begins, after some fumbling around for coffee and rousing a sleepy teenage boy out of bed, with the feeding and milking chores. We inherited an older ATV four-wheeler from a sweet neighbor who no longer used it. It is our all-purpose ranch chore-mobile. This machine is a particular favorite with Ruth, the Leopard Catahoula dog. 

There are two things you should understand about Ruth. One, Ruth is a large gal. She takes up quite a bit of real estate. Two, when things go wrong, Ruth freezes. She just hunkers her considerable self down, digs in her claws and waits for the storm to pass. Forget telling her to vacate-it ain’t happening.

The chore-mobile is hooked to a ramshackle old utility trailer and we back this rig up to the front porch and drag the milking machine on to it, then away we go to the barn. I drive, Ruth insists on riding on the seat behind me, Quinten rides in the trailer, the two blue heelers trot alongside and the cows and horses fall in single-file behind us as we too-da-loo-da-doo down the road to the barn. I’m sure we are a sight. All we are missing is a sign proclaiming we don’t rent pigs.

One of the items on the endless to-do list that keeps getting skipped over is pulling the right front tire off the chore-mobile and taking it to town to Anthony at the tire shop so he can figure out what to do about the giant, albeit marginally sealed, hole a mesquite stump made through the rubber. We just keep airing it up one more day after one more day. 

This morning I headed out to the barn with the usual assembly, when I realized I had neglected to air up the tire. My mind running in full pressure gauge WARNING level, “burning daylight “ mode. I turned hard left, back to the shop for air, slid to a stop in the gravel not quite parallel to the side of the shop and leaving the engine idling and the transmission engaged, I raced for the air hose.

As I reached the compressor, it occurred to me that I had made a bad decision to save five seconds of daylight in my day. At the exact moment that I realized my error, I saw Ruth, in her excitement to get on with the morning ride on the chore-mobile, had turned around backwards on the seat. Her happily wagging tail thumping about wildly. Her tail hit the thumb-throttle. The chore-mobile jumped. Sensing an impending storm, Ruth hunkered down in the seat, digging all twenty toenails into the cushion and driving her butt firmly against the throttle.

VAROOOM! The chore-mobile climbed the shop wall. Ruth managed to keep her claws embedded long enough to ride it until it was parallel up the wall with the tailpipe in the ground before she was flung into the trailer, where she resumed her “shelter in place” operations. 

Quinten, who I’m pretty sure fell right back to sleep as soon as his boney behind sat down in the trailer, had been entirely dethroned and was sitting in the driveway with his lanky arms and legs askew and looking like a giant red-haired tarantula.

The white hen we call Chicken Little because of her constant fear of the sky falling, must have been pecking around the shop when the excitement started and been convinced her eschatological fears were coming true. Before Quinten could comprehend what had happened, Chicken Little determined the safest place for white chickens would be perched on top of the giant red tarantula in the drive and lept onto Quinten’s head screeching “Oh, woe-betide! Oh, doom!“ in loud chicken squawks.

The cows, who had been waiting in front of the house for the morning march to the barn, stood in the road observing the drama with the kind, cud-chewing placidity of Jersey cows. This must have enraged the two blue heelers, who took it upon themselves as the ranch law enforcement officers, to discipline the cows for loitering and took off after the cows nipping their heels.

Apparently Maybelle wasn’t quite awake yet either, because when she turned to flee the law, she spun straight into the side of the truck with enough apparent speed and momentum to roll herself over the side and into the truck bed, where she scrambled to her feet and recomposed her face into placid, doe-eyed Jersey cow expression.

The front door slammed open and I heard Jeff yell “WHAT…”. Apparently he had intended to inquire what the commotion was but could no longer form words with his jaw on his chest. 

The four-wheeler was on its rear wheels against the shop wall. The catahoula was cowering in the trailer, his son was sitting in the drive with a chicken on his head, the milk cow was standing in the back of the truck, and his wife was…disappearing as fast as possible behind the shop.

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Author’s note

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This story may or may not be fictional and names may have been changed to protect the identity of the innocent. Okay. It’s true right up to the point I reached the air compressor. The rest just went through my mind as I realized I left the chore-mobile in gear with a dog on it. The moral of the story is put the dang equipment in neutral!

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