Sow’s Ear: In a quandary? Ask Martha

by Gwen Petersen

Big Timber, Mont.

As I thumbed the pages of a periodical in the doctor’s waiting room, worry lingered at the back of my mind like a bad dream. Consider a spring-fed stocktank a quarter mile from the house that provides water for horses on one side and feedlot steers on the other. Then ponder what to do when the tank begins to go dry due to the never-ending drought. What used to be a stream of water fast enough to fill the tank ” and with overflow enough to nourish the lone cottonwood a few feet down the gully ” is now a pathetic trickle.

The livestock must have water. A solution must be found. My gaze focused on the magazine before me. Words danced on the page. Have a difficulty?

Wondering how to solve a dilemma? In a turmoil? Have a predicament? In a quandary? Ask Martha.

Martha? Of course! Maybe Martha Stewart, a woman of awesome and limitless imagination ” not to mention a staff of inspired thinker-uppers ” could dream up a solution to my tank trouble. I left the doctor’s office with hope blossoming, sat down at my computer and through the magic of e-mail and the Internet, I posed my question. And lo, Martha responded.

She wrote, “Dear Rural Person, to get water to your tank, use a ‘Martha Stewart Supplementary Stock-Watering Applicator Hose.’ To make the hose, fly to Bolivia, tap some rubber trees, convert the rubber-tree sap into rubber by heating over a Bunsen burner. Pour into 500 or 600 18-inch hose molds. Cool. Break molds. Stick the lengths of freshly decanted pieces together with Super Glue and duct tape. When you have a quarter mile of hose completed, wrap all in a double row of heat tape, a precaution against possible freezing.

“Manufacture your tape out of discarded coils from old alarm clocks and metal toilet-tissue rollers. Set tape-wrapped hose aside while you knit a hose-cozy from wool yarn which protects the tape while blending in with the prairie landscape in an environmentally friendly manner.

“To obtain yarn, first shear a sheep, wash and card the wool. Construct a spinning wheel from spare stovewood. Spin wool into yarn. With number 10 needles, carved from leftover bits of stovewood, knit a quarter mile of hose-cozy and slip onto your quarter mile of hose. Attach one end to outside water spigot at the house. Unfurl hose over the prairie avoiding sagebrush and sharp rocks. At stocktank, drop far end of hose into tank. Hike back to house. Turn spigot to on. Trudge back to stocktank. Wait for water to emerge from hose. Be patient. You have built it. It will come.

“An alternate method for supplying your tank with water is to dig a well. This can be done in a very short time if you follow ‘Martha Stewart’s Guide to Digging a Well Using a Teaspoon and a Coat Hanger.’ Complete instructions with diagrams for just $19.95 plus postage.”

Martha ended her advice with an invitation to subscribe to her magazine, watch her TV show and buy her lines of garments, gadgets and gizmos. She also added a thrilling postscript: “As a first time user of my ‘Martha Stewart Supplementary Stock-Watering Applicator,’ kindly inform me how well it works for you. With your permission, I shall visit you along with an interviewer and photographer. An article with your picture holding a cozy-covered applicator will be published in the next issue of my new magazine: Martha Stewart Country Living.”

I must hurry. Martha Stewart’s coming to my house, I haven’t finished knitting my hose-cozy, my hair’s a mess and I think I’m coming down with a cold.