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Irons in the fire: Hand shoes

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 March 2021

The unrelenting early spring wind continued on. It was well into its third day of mercilessly tormenting me. Oh, it had slowed to about 15 mph, but now the gusts were accompanied by flurries of snow that whipped my face like the tail of a nervous colt recklessly slapping at a deer fly.

Flurry seems like such a nice word. Maybe I don’t even know what a flurry is. What is apparently defined as a flurry has always felt more like an attack to me. Maybe that’s because every time I encounter any such tricks of Mother Nature, I’m in the midst of some kind of crisis. Not surprisingly, this day, this storm and this crisis were, it seemed, more of the same.

I had three freezing newborn calves in the barn, and I was out in the horse pasture trying to get a halter on one of the seven or eight horses gathered around me, each one trying to stick his nose in the grain bucket I’d hauled out with me to chum them up to the corner. I needed the assistance of one of my equine partners to gather up the uncooperative mothers of the chilled little ones. I figured luck wouldn’t be on my side if I trusted them all to mother up like they should on a day like the one I was experiencing.

Now, tying a simple knot in a rope halter shouldn’t be cause for any real consternation, yet on this day, it was just one more thing piling up on a mountain of frustration. I instinctively cussed what seemed to me at the time to be the cause of my flummoxing. It was my gloves. I was reminded of the irreverent saying my grandpa used to recite regarding one of the few things a guy could accomplish with gloves on his hands. At that moment, I had to agree with him. And, by the way, tying a halter wasn’t one of those things. After several seconds of fumbling with the halter, with a nearly profane oath, I flipped the gloves off of my hands and onto the snow-covered ground. With now freezing bare fingers, I was finally able to get the halter secured on old Roanie’s head. I picked up the offending gloves from the frozen, snow-covered ground and shoved my frigid digits back into their warm and cumbersome embrace.

As I saddled my horse, again with the debilitating aid of my insulated gloves, I continued to curse the day and all that was making it such a miserable experience. Again, the gloves became a lightning rod for my wrath. Later, when I needed my rope and my mediocre skills that accompanied such necessity to coax one of the contrary cows into the corral, the gloves again proved to be somewhat of a hindrance.

I came to the conclusion that the German language, in all its coarse-sounding, descriptive glory, got it right. You see, the German word for glove is “handschuh.” Translated literally, it is just as it sounds, hand shoe. It felt like that’s exactly what my gloves were to me on that day, a pair of shoes on my hands.

Later on that night, after the sun went down, the wind subsided and I’d reunited the babies and mamas with their respective “each others,” I had a chance to cool down after I’d warmed up a bit in the house. How silly and ironic I found it that I’d been cussing my poor inanimate gloves all day when they were only doing their job.

I decided my trials of the day offered up a few parallels to some of the aggravating struggles of life. I could barely tie a simple knot in a halter, yet in the absence of the good old hand shoes altogether, I wouldn’t have been able to function at all. While the gloves seemingly made the task a much more difficult one than I preferred, without them the simple little chore would have probably been impossible altogether. They offered protection, and thus offered the ability, an ability which would probably have been an impossibility without them.

Blessings and good fortune come in many forms. Make sure you don’t cast them aside in the burning heat or freezing cold of a frustrating moment. end mark

Paul Marchant is a cowboy and part-time freelance writer based in southern Idaho. Follow him on Twitter, or email Paul Marchant.

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