Petersen: A helping hand | TheFencePost.com

Petersen: A helping hand

Increasingly, people are moving away from the cities and attempting to establish roots in the country. If they can't relocate on a permanent basis, they troop into and onto the countryside during their vacations from city drudgery. Whether temporary or permanent settlers, these souls are floundering about in territory foreign to them. Training a tenderfoot is a serious responsibility and not every country woman has the emotional stamina to shoulder the burden. However, here are a few tried-and-mostly-true guidelines developed by courageous farm and ranch women from all over the nation.

Most tenderfoots do not want to be out of step. The sympathetic stalwart country woman is in a position to lend a guiding hand.

A starting point is to help the tenderfoot with basic country dress codes. A fresh dude or greenhorn stands out of the crowd because of his or her garb. There are never any wear places on their clothing. Denims show no thin spots at the knees from lifting hay bales. Shirt pockets show no white circles of wear from snus cans. Hats, if worn at all, are always exceptionally clean, spiffy and incredibly neatly shaped. (The standard country chapeau is a saggy brimmed, holey crowned, grease-stained felt or straw thing that lives on a head.) Patches on tenderfoot clothing do not play a functional role, but are merely appliquéd on as decoration. And greenhorn footgear never appears in public with scuff marks, broken laces or a manure frosting.

The country woman should tactfully suggest the tenderfoot remove her giant sunglasses and present her with a regular country-style straw or felt hat (depending on the weather). If the greenhorn balks, quote some statistics on freckles, wrinkles and sunstroke. Once she accepts suitable headgear, the uneducated tenderfoot is apt to balance it jauntily on the back of her head so as not to muss her hair. The angle of the hat is such that it is frequently caught by the wind and cartwheels away, spooking every critter in sight which convinces the trembling tenderfoot she is in the middle of a stampede.

Rescue the hat from where it has landed and look around for the trainee who has escaped by diving through a five-wire barbed fence.

Inspect the trainee's feet and strongly urge her to refrain from wearing those open-toed sandals.

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A notable characteristic about a greenhorn is her inability to budge from the house without a Joseph's coat of cosmetic paint on her face. Introduce her to the country chic of hand-me-down men's shirts, patched jeans, baggy bib-overalls, holey cotton work gloves and blister-causing irrigation boots.

After noting a satisfactory progress in the tenderfoot's appearance, the country woman can expand the training program to include instructions in small town behavior. This is an area where the tenderfoot needs careful guidance and sympathetic help. An anxious tenderfoot may not know how to "visit." Therefore, the country-woman trainer must coach her in the art of country commentary about weather, newborn critters, the progress of the garden, whether the chickens are laying as well as they ought, and how plans for the 4-H fair are coming along. Take it slowly because in a store, the trainee may tap impatiently on the counter and blurt out her needs. She will have to say the sentence twice because the first time she talks so fast, the storekeeper can merely admire lip movements without comprehending a word.

Because of the country woman's tutelage, it won't be long before the tenderfoot will call every store clerk by name and be able to discuss tomato blight and feeding the bum lambs with ease.

A major problem for a country newcomer is how to conquer a fear of animals larger than a chicken. But she is courageous and wants to learn. Encourage the trainee to help in the lambing shed while the trainer persuades a yearling ewe to accept a fresh wet lamb. Show the trainee how to scratch a sow's belly in the farrowing barn. Have the trainee hold the newborn calf while you, the trainer, iodine its navel and fend off its mama.

Invite the trainee along when you pick up a baby calf to graft onto a cow that has lost its own. Let the trainee sit in the back seat of the vehicle with the calf and talk to it to keep it calm. In only a short season or so, Ms. Tenderfoot will graduate out of the greenhorn class and begin giving advice to newcomers even greener than she. ❖