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Irons in the fire: Finish it posthaste

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattleman Published on 24 May 2019

In general, I hold pretty fast to a few steady and consistent rules of thumb. One such rule has to do with sticking to your strengths, at least when you’re out in public view. Another fairly reliable and ironic adage is that there is an exception or two to every rule.

Case in point: One of my most notable and documented strengths is my extraordinary ability to procrastinate. This particular trait, or flaw, if you will, has never really served me well. I’ve yet to reap many benefits from it.

This subject came up the other day as I arrived, almost on time, to a county fair board work project. In my vain attempt to convince my fellow board members of the worthiness of my excuses, I whined to them about my efforts to get all the horses shod before branding and turnout. Mother Nature’s procrastination of weather warm enough to promote any grass growth was aiding me in those efforts, but to nobody’s surprise, I was still far from finishing the dreaded task. Perhaps in an effort to boost my self-esteem, Todd and Carla chimed in with a tale or two of their own epic fails.

Todd has a grey mare he bought a few years back. She’s nice to look at and pleasant to ride, once you get headed out. She does, however, have a flaw or two. She’s a pain to catch, and she’s just a touch barn sour and lonesome for a few minutes before she gets her mind right and focuses on the task at hand.

One morning, Todd needed to make a circle around the cows. The horses were running out in the 40-acre piece behind the house. The mare, of course, had to make the requisite lap or two around the field before she’d finally face up and stick her nose in the halter. He was a bit annoyed by her antics, but Todd, ever the kind and patient one, kept his wits about him as he started back for the barn with his mount in tow.

The shortest path to the barn led him across a little creek that ran through the horse pasture and right behind the house. It’s easy to cross if you step on the big rock in the middle and make a little leap to the other side. Todd’s half-century old legs aren’t as nimble as they once were, but he was a fair athlete for the Raft River Trojans back in the day, so this tiny waterway didn’t pose much of a threat.

As he made his dainty and graceful leap from the rock to the west side of the tiny creek, Ol’ Grey was having second thoughts. Her nose shot in the air, and she took two quick steps back as Todd was midleap, lead rope in hand. The opposite, and more than equal reaction of the horse to his Jesse Owens impression, jerked Todd back almost across the creek to the feet of the uncooperative equine. A few near-profane words and a couple of valiant crossing attempts later, Todd abandoned the attack and took the reluctant pony back across the field to the corner gate and around to the road where he could get to the barn.

Once to the barn, he tied the mare to a post he’d planted in the ground a year or two earlier with the intent of building a first-rate hitching rail. Although he was now running late, he had to run up to the house for a quick change of clothes since his failed creek crossing had left him looking like a model for a bad senior adult undergarment commercial. He got no pleasure in his wife’s good-hearted teasing.

“I guess finding humor in the situation depends on your point of view,” she quipped.

As he exited the house, his attention was drawn to a cloud of dust and the sound of a ruckus down by the tack room. He rushed to the scene to find the mare furiously backpedaling and flailing about like a 7-inch trout jerked out of the aforementioned stream by his 4-year-old grandson. The goofy old hide had hung back and jerked Todd’s unfinished hitching post clean out of the ground. In her attempt to escape the demon post attached to her head, the mare was flinging the post in every direction, bouncing it off of every stationary object in the tri-county area.

Thankfully, the 35 pounds of concrete attached to the bottom of the post quickly wore the crazy cayuse down and limited the theatrics to a one-act play, and the star of the show gave up in relatively short order. Not, however, before rendering the yard something akin to the aftermath of the final battle scene of any number of Marvel movies.

The day’s work was now nothing more than the after-party to the main show. Todd got the beast saddled without further incident and, aside from some tail wringing and a few anxious whinnies and several glances back toward the horse pasture for the first half-mile, the steed was on her best behavior for the rest of the day.

In answer to a query as to whether or not he had learned anything about procrastination and finishing what he started, Todd was quick with an answer.

“Heck yeah,” he retorted. “I never should have started in the first place!”  end mark

Paul Marchant
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