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The Total Suckage of Sequences (or why I never get anything done)

I have a lot of writing heros. Oddly enough, being romance writer and all, one of my biggest heroes is best known for writing hunting and fishing stories. Neither of which I find particularly entertaining, except for the times my coonhound Weezy was involved, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Patrick McManus* is one of the funniest human beings on the planet, at least in writing. He penned a story about sequences that solved one of the great mysteries of my life: He explained why we never seem to get anything done around here.

According to Mr. McManus, “…on a farm you simply don’t go out and do a piece of work. No, the first thing you do is determine the lengthy sequence of activities necessary even to begin the job.”

Amen, and double for ranchers.

For example: at lunch one day my dad said, “Could you saddle a horse and get that lame bull in so we can doctor his footrot?” No problem. Except I hadn’t been on a horse since the last equinox, due to a combination of factors, not least of which was outright laziness.

I found my cowboy boots in the third place I looked. I started to pull on the right one and dumped the barley an industrious mouse had stockpiled inside onto the floor. Knowing my son would track it all through the house, I grabbed the vacuum to clean it up, but the bag was full. I trekked clear down to the trash barrel to dump it. Then, after a fruitless search of the cupboards, I trekked over to my mother’s house to borrow a new bag.

Finally, floor vacuumed, boots on, I headed for the barn. Tack has a weird way of becoming dismembered when not used regularly. I blame the mice. There are enough of them in the oat bin to pack off an intact roping saddle, let alone a little old halter. The first two bridles had no reins. The third was missing a chin strap. The headstall was broken on the fourth.

I sifted through tangles and piles until I located all the requisite parts and attached them to a bit with enough whoa to keep my grass fat and sassy steed from doing either of us bodily harm. My saddle still had both cinches–a small miracle–but no breast collar. With this particular horse, no breast collar equals back cinch sliding into flank, equals my head driven into mud. Luckily, I had a spare stashed in the horse trailer.

I trotted outside, only to find the tack room door guarded by a six inch deep puddle. I hot-footed it to the camper, found my overshoes, and forded the small lake to retrieve the breast collar…which was several inches too long. The leather punch was on the top shelf, exactly where it was supposed to be. Right under the leak in the roof. I jogged over to the shop, searched work benches, tool chests and shelves, and eventually located a can of WD-40 in the John Deere tractor.

Leather punch lubricated, hole punched, breast collar properly fitted, horse saddled and bridled, I left the barn a mere fifty-five minutes after embarking upon my simple chore. It took fifteen minutes to ride to the pasture, sort off the bull, and put him in the corral. I planned to wait until the bull was doctored, then chase him back to the pasture. He strolled into the chute like a perfect gentleman. Which was when we realized that the headgate and the squeeze mechanism were embedded in three inches of sun-baked mud.

“We’ll need the crowbar to chip it loose,” my dad said. “It’s over at the calving shed.”

“Not anymore,” my husband said. “I used it to brace that corner post the yearlings broke off last week. We’ll have to swing by the shop and cut a piece of pipe to replace it until we can set a new post.”

“The blade is shot on the cut off saw,” my dad reminded him. “I picked up a new one in town, we’ll just have to switch….hey, where are you going?”

“Home,” I said. “It looks like you’re gonna be a while.” And I kicked my horse into a lope before this new sequence could suck me in.

*Note to readers: If you’ve never read Patrick McManus, you are missing some of the best stories ever written about country life and being a kid. You’ll find Patrick at patrickfmcmanus.com. You’ll find ‘Sequences’ in a book titled The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw. Buy it, read it, and expect the people around you to spend a lot of time asking, “What the heck is so funny?”

6 Responses

  1. Girl, I’m exhausted just reading your post! 🙂 Whew! What a day! I go through my share of lengthy sequences pretty much everyday, but I think it has more to do with some form of ADD in my case. LOL Focus darn it, that’s all I need….

  2. This is SO funny. It sounds like my average day…just with different tasks. Insert writing, vacuuming, dishes, dogs out/in, and laundry into the story and you’ve got my life!

    LOVE the story.

  3. The worst is the sequence I manage to make up to get ready to write. Why is it impossible to just sit down in front of the computer? No. Must first check Twitter, then email, then Google reader, then Twitter, then get a Pepsi, then find the mp3 player, then find the headphones, then find the charger for the mp3 player because of course the batteries are dead, and by then there might be something new on Twitter…..

  4. Kari Lynn, I adore you and your stories. (Also about to look up Patrick McManus on Amazon!) I’m with Cyndi — the details of your life are fresh and new to me, but by golly I’m stuck into sequences of my own. Next time one starts unfolding I’ll remember yours and start giggling.

  5. I also highly recommend “A Deer on a Bicycle”, one of the best writing books I own, both in general and for humor.

  6. Loved escaping into your world….a world I don’t understand, but stilll appreciate 🙂

    I’ll have to look for his collection of stories. If YOU thinks he’s funny, I bet I’ll be rolling on the floor.

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