Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Tools of the trade

Our well went down. Not for the first time. On day two of attempting to get our livestock watered, in the midst of trying to screw a specialty part onto the new pump, my husband asked if I could stop just standing around and do something. We were working over a 10-inch well casing…

Now, more often than not that would light my fuse. However, I could see it for what it was – a man with a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, and two days behind on his to-do list, working on a well he invested good time and money into making low maintenance and problem free.

It also struck my funny bone, which may speak to my mental state.

I’ve learned a few things working with men over the years, and I am now going to pass on a couple gems that may help make life easier in otherwise tense situations.

Let’s start with the standing around doing nothing issue. Most men, like my husband, are just venting frustration at the situation in general when they say such a thing. Usually. I say this assuming you aren’t reapplying a fake nail or eyelash in the pickup mirror in the midst of something like trying to get the well back up and running. If you are, you should be thankful if that’s all your husband said.

For those who are drug into these situations because you are his main help, one trick I’ve learned is to have something on your person that may, or may not, help solve the problem. Taking into consideration the weight and bulkiness of the item(s) relative to their ability to help.

My tool of choice in situations like water problems, vehicles, and old machinery is a crescent wrench. You can carry it along, and while it may not solve the problem, its ability to resize, and even act as a hammer if it isn’t the top shelf wrench and the situation is dire, means it may actually be what the issue calls for.

With cattle, I try to remember to toss a couple 16 gauge by ¾” needles and a paint stick in my pocket. Neither will weigh me down as I make that fuzzy-line-transition between the wife in charge of lunch to the hired man in charge of filling in for the dog left at home. Make sure you take the bulky crescent wrench out of your pocket on these days.

If we are building or repairing a structure, I grab my tape measure. Now, just to be clear, few women have ever had the “right” tape measure. It’s too short, feminine, cheap, potentially inaccurate, etc… However, most men are not above using it before they crawl off a rooftop or other precarious perch to locate their preferred tape measure. You also actually want a sub-par tape measure, because that is what keeps it from permanently disappearing from the house cupboard.

Other potentially useful item include but are not limited to: baling twine, wire, fencing pliers, regular pliers, a pocket knife, shovel, matches, screw drivers, tape, extra drill bits, money, and lunch.

Another thing is, when you’re sent to get parts, call before you leave town. I do not care if Tony behind the service desk is the top expert on John Deere balers in three states, and that your husband sent a list he wrote himself. Call him and casually mention what you picked up. Even if you know the parts by heart, and you have already corrected any errors, chewed on whoever messed up, or praised whoever put together just what you need. Just call. You don’t need the weight of responsibility that comes with just showing up with the wrong thing, or without the item that was remembered after you left home.

If you’re sent for parts across the yard, swing by the house and grab him a cup of coffee, or at our house, a cold Mountain Dew. Maybe a candy bar.

One of these days and/or situations is not the time to take on big, new tasks like driving and/or operating a new-to-you vehicle or piece of machinery. If he’s already teetering on the edge, sticking a load of hay on a side hill, flooding the ancient truck “everyone” knows you can only pump the gas pedal on three times when starting it, being blissfully ignorant of how to pull start something that doesn’t have brakes, or running an entire pen of share cattle through the old section of fence will not help anyone’s humor.

Back to the fuzzy line between wife and hired man. The hired man, or neighbor, gets to go to a separate home at night, while as the wife you have to live with the boss and find a way to pay for anything that gets broke. Think long-term as you make decisions, and ask yourself if attempting something new will shorten, or lengthen, the list of things burning at his temper.

Above all else, pray for your husband on these days, and in these situations.

Now, I have to grab a Mountain Dew, and my trusty crescent wrench and get back to it.


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