Gwen Petersen: In a Sow’s Ear 2–27-12
City folk moving to the country (new-west “settlers”) often find themselves wondering what’s going on. Sometimes they are confronted with words they don’t understand and activities totally strange to their former way of life.
For example, in the country the word chores is an expression meaning the tasks, jobs, responsibilities, activities and duties necessary to sustain food, fiber and ultimately the lives of the nation’s populace – including the lives enjoyed by the new-west settlers. Which is a windy way of saying somebody’s gotta git ‘er done.
Chores do not allow time off just because it’s Sunday or because it’s too hot, too cold or too tedious. Chore-time can be slightly flexible – start an hour earlier or an hour later but if something is broken such as a leg or an arm, one must still do chores. If the broken bits of oneself are encased in a cast, grain and hay dust can creep inside causing unbearable itching. (Wrapping a plastic bag around the plaster or brace keeps the dust out – mostly).
Relief from doing chores is not an option for the country worker, unless one is having a child. (That would be the female country worker). As a woman, one can get out of chores for at least a day or two by going to the hospital to give birth. A clever woman can go into false labor a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. She can savor sleeping late, she can ring a bell and staff persons will bring her food and beverage. They’ll even make her bed.
Occasionally chores – such as cleaning the chicken coop – can be Tom Sawyer-ed to youngsters old enough to handle shovels, but not yet old enough to expect wages in any form other than cookies and milk and a ride on the tractor. (This usually only works once with most youngsters).
Corral-cleaning can also be out-sourced by locating a teen-age girl who’s wild about horses but has no equine of her own. Promising her use of Old Smokey in exchange for shoveling out corral and barn will take care of that chore for at least a summer. Sometimes she’ll bring a girl friend along. One should make sure to have duplicate shovels and rakes handy. And a second saddle horse.
If the south 40 pasture is overrun with gophers, find a reliable teen-age boy and let him target practice. Like the chore-girl in the barn, the chore boy in the pasture will likely have a buddy only too glad to help.
City-turned-country persons should be warned that most chores are gender related. If the tractor breaks down while Himself is running it, Herself must go to town for parts. If the tractor breaks down while she is driving it, she is still the designated go-to-town-for-parts individual – plus explain what she did wrong that created the problem.
A complete list of rural daily duties and necessary requirements to accomplish the tasks could fill pages, but here is a final hint to those City Folk who want to become Country Folk: Like getting dressed every day, nobody notices what goes into keeping up with chores unless they’re left undone or you show up naked.