Saturday, May 5, 2012

Believe You Know-it-All and Then Act Like It.

I’m a pure-bred city-slicker who has ridden horses a few times including a two-day stint in high school helping drive cattle to their summer range, but most of my horse knowledge comes straight from Louis L’Amour cowboy novels. One day after helping my cousins brand cattle at their Wyoming ranch I decided to ride “Buckskin” back to the corrals. At this time I was probably 25ish and knew everything. Armed with this ignorance, I determined Buckskin’s bit was too tight and loosened it one or two notches. In hindsight this was like loosening the nut on the steering wheel of a car.

I climbed into the saddle and started down the bluff into the South field. It was about this time that the nut came completely off the steering wheel. Buckskin bolted for home. Confident in my ability to slow the horse, I jerked back on the reins. Nothing happened. No problem. I jerked harder. We went faster. I yelled “whoa” really loud. We still didn't stop.

Sensing something was wrong, (it could have been my yelling; "whoa" really loudly), Cousin Joseph and his horse tried to catch up to us but I had too much of a head start. I was jerking back on the reins as hard as I could but the horse just continued running. Looking back, I could see Joseph coming but he wasn't gaining on us. I was starting to wonder how badly I’d be hurt when my ride came to its inevitable conclusion. As we approached one of the ditches crisscrossing the field, I hung on to the saddle horn with both hands and managed to remain mounted during the jump. At this point I thought about jumping off, but the bad memory of jumping from a moving truck on the ranch years earlier convinced me to remain seated.

At the north end of the field there is a very stout barbwire fence with railroad ties for posts. This appeared to be Buckskin’s planned route home. I thought surely the stupid beast would see the fence before we hit it. Luckily I was right. At the last minute the horse veered abruptly to the east. I again managed to stay in the saddle. A glimmer of hope started to build as we approached the corner of the field where two fences intersect. With Joseph chasing me from behind, I started to think I might survive. My hope was fleeting.

As we approached the corner of the field, I thought Buckskin would slow down, and I was correct—momentarily. In the corner there was a gate made of three fence posts and four strands of barbwire. Inexplicably, Buckskin didn’t notice the gate was closed; he tensed and accelerated directly towards the gate.

As we again picked up speed I knew that one of two things was going to happen. We’d hit the gate and end up in a pile or; the horse would see the gate at the last possible second and come to an abrupt stop. I tried to prepare for both possibilities by leaning as far back in the saddle as possible and putting the stirrups next to Buckskin’s ears while bracing myself for the crash.

At the last moment Buckskin saw the closed gate and tried to stop but it was too late. We hit the barbwire. When we hit, the top strand pulled free from the post. The next strand was much lower, about thigh-high, which caused Buckskin to trip over the top of the remaining strands. Up until now I had remained in the saddle, but I knew from my extensive reading of Louis L’Amour novels that getting your feet caught in the stirrups was very bad, so I kicked my feet free of the stirrups and threw myself to the ground. I like to imagine this was done in an athletic manner but Joseph’s laughter told me otherwise.

Jumping quickly to my feet I snatched up Buckskin’s reins before he could regain his footing. Joseph was laughing hysterically. I didn’t find my near-death experience nearly as funny as Joseph did but I was thankful to be alive and unhurt (except, of course, for my pride). Buckskin had a small cut on his chest from the barbwire but was otherwise unhurt.

I was not about to climb back into the saddle while it was still attached to Satan’s messenger so I walked him the rest of the way to the corrals. When we arrived, we ran into Uncle Bruce and told him about my experience. He was very concerned—-about Buckskin. He wondered why I’d do something so careless and damage one of his good horses. Appropriately chastened I headed back to the ranch house. I’m not sure I ever told anyone about loosening the bit; at the time I decided to keep that bit of knowledge to myself.

They say that good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from exercising bad judgment. From this incident I learned that if you want to significantly shorten your life, believe you know everything there is to know and then act accordingly.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday is a Special Day

There is a primary song that goes like this:

Saturday is a special day.
It’s the day we get ready for Sunday:
We clean the house, and we shop at the store,
So we won’t have to work until Monday.
We brush our clothes, and we shine our shoes,
And we call it our get-the-work-done day.
Then we trim our nails, and we shampoo our hair,
So we can be ready for Sunday!

After the earth is renewed and receives its paradisiacal glory, that’s how the song will go in our house.

But for now our song goes more like this:

Sunday Morning is the time we frantically get ready for Church.

Short, sweet and simple.

There are three of us in the house and we each have our own way of getting ready.

I shower, usually 16 milliseconds before my wife had planned her shower. Following my shower I open the closet, select a shirt, slacks and (hopefully) matching tie. I iron the shirt (because the song doesn’t say we must iron our clothes on Saturday) and get dressed. The whole process takes about 10 minutes—less if my wife starts banging on the shower door.

Our 15-year-old son follows much the same process except the shower is much longer and he selects the cleanest available shirt from either the floor or the laundry hamper. He also asks me to help with his tie (unless it’s a bow tie which he has mastered). His time to get ready is about 20-40 minutes.

My wife follows a different process. She searches through the closet and selects all the available blouses, skirts and dresses and lays them on the bed. She then makes a spreadsheet listing all the possible combinations with their plusses and minuses. Minuses include things like making her look fat, pregnant, old, or frumpy. Having worn the same outfit within the last two month also puts it on the minus list. “Pluses” include outfits that look cute. Sometimes she even asks for my opinion which has a weighting of .02% on the overall decision. I guess wearing dresses only on Halloween disqualifies me from offering qualified opinions; that and the fact that I give the same rote response each week; “yes, I like it, it looks great! Can we go now?”

Once she has selected the perfect combination, she does her hair and makeup and dons the chosen outfit. She also opens the jewelry armoire and begins to select the appropriate matching accessories. At this point I start tapping my watch, not to be annoying, just to ensure it’s still functioning.

Thinking we’re finally ready to leave I head to the car. Suddenly our son remembers he needs to brush his teeth and find his scriptures. At the same time, my wife heads back to the bedroom to change into a totally different but much cuter outfit. I begin honking the horn. Not to be annoying, just to make sure it still works.

Sitting alone in the car in the garage, eight seconds before church started used to really bother me. I’m one of those people who’d rather arrive 30 minutes early than 30 seconds late. In fact, just last night I had a nightmare I was late to a business meeting with a tortilla maker because I couldn't find a taxi (don’t analyze me). I was horrified.

While I was sitting in the car one day it dawned on me; “You have two cars for a reason, use them.” Now when it’s time to leave for church and our son is brushing his teeth and my wife is changing into a different dress, I just announce; “I’m going to go now and save us a seat.” And I do, right up in the very front of the chapel—not to be annoying, but because I can hear well when I’m close.

*In the interest of fairness, my wife views the events described above in a different light. Something about having to finish the all tasks described in the song (above),cooking breakfast, doing the dishes, preparing dinner, and helping ME pick the correct shirt, tie, pant and shoe combination. When she's finally ready to shower she discovers that, upon hearing her approaching footsteps, I've leaped into the shower just in front of her. Other than those insignificant items, we both agree it's mostly an accurate representation of actual events.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The World’s Most Dangerous Activity

I’ve been curious about the safety of the various activities in which we engage and decided to do some research. According to some internet sites, the world’s most dangerous activities include things like BASE jumping, racing motorcycles, bull riding, and big-wave surfing. I’m sure the mothers of people who engage in these activities pray daily for the safety of their children. As church members we frequently pray for the safety of the missionaries and those serving our country in the armed forces. However, according to my very informal research, the people for whom we most often request divine protection are those members engaged in the death-defying activity of . . . driving home from church.

Driving home from church; what’s so dangerous about that? I’m not sure myself but it must be very dangerous or at the conclusion of nearly every church meeting we wouldn't pray; “bless us that we’ll all arrive home safely” . Have you ever prayed to arrive safely at church? I don’t ever remember doing so. Therefore it must only be the drive home that’s dangerous.

Perhaps the drive to church is so much safer because members arrive at a variety of times. Some come early; some on time and the rest of us arrive 5-10 minutes late, thereby reducing congestion. Conversely, at the end of the three-hour meeting block, a big school bell in the hallway rings and tired, hungry toddlers, frazzled parents, restless teens, old people with low blood sugar and football fans all race to the parking where the Bishop yells; “Brothers and Sisters, start your engines.” OK, I made that last part up. He really mutters; “Depart ye fiends.”

Still, even with everyone departing at the same time it doesn’t seem as if driving home from church warrants the frequency of requests for divine protection. There must be something more to it. I’ve given it a lot of thought and decided that requesting divine intervention to protect us on our journey home is a tradition handed down from the pioneers. You see, back in the old days people used to walk to church or even ride horses or in horse-drawn buggies.

Horses can be unpredictable and after being tied up during church they can runaway or buck off their rider. Walking home was also dangerous; pedestrians could be trampled by runaway horses, trip and fall or perhaps even get a blister. Because of these many perils, one Sunday, while giving the benediction, someone said; “please bless us that we’ll all arrive at our homes safely.” This new phrase instantly joined “nourish and strengthen us” in the prayer phrasebook where it remains today—firmly ingrained in the LDS lexicon.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I’m Not Sick, I Look like This on Purpose

After I married Ms. Wonderful I started gaining a few pounds. Over the years the few became many and I became much too short for my girth. In truth, according to fine people at The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I was trampling on the line separating “overweight” from “obese”. I’ve never liked the word “obese” (in relation to myself) because it sounds so harsh. Since we pay the salaries at the HHS I think they should use friendlier terms like; skinny, healthy, chubby, chunky and colossal. Nevertheless, according to their charts, I was somewhere between chubby and chunky.

Over the years I’d made some effort to slenderize myself, but with only moderate success. However, last year Ms. Wonderful stopped eating sugary substances and lost 15 pounds. Seeing how “easy” this was, I decided to give weight loss a real try. Giving up sugar was easier than you think since the person doing most of the cooking stopped putting it in the food. My choices became; stop eating (unlikely), make my own meals (even more unlikely) or eat less sugar. I chose option three.

Well, I didn’t lose much weight. Apparently weight loss also involved something called “exercise.” I decided to try that as well. Beginning an exercise regimen was slightly harder than giving up sugar. I chose running (slow jogging really) because it was cheap and easy to learn. According to HHS statistics, every time I went running I was carrying extra weight equal to a five-year old (that explains the slow time in my first 5k race—the five-year-old in me would not keep up!).

Eventually I discovered the secret to weight loss. It works kind of like this; Consume fewer calories, eat healthier foods and exercise five times a week. I plan on writing a book about my discovery. I’ll make millions. I’ll call my book; “The Really Hard Way to Lose Weight.” By carefully following this regimen, I began to lose weight, two or three pounds every month at first then a little less after that. Over time my efforts really started to add up. I started asking my wife if she could tell that I’d lost weight. At first she humored me and said that she could certainly see the miniscule difference. Since then I’ve asked the same question 500 times—she no longer humors me. I think she thinks I’m now asking just to show off. Is that so bad?

Now that I’m thinner there’s one word I particularly enjoy hearing; “skinny.” I even heard it while I was in a buffet line in Las Vegas. A couple of months ago we went to visit my cousin in Wyoming. I really like visiting people I haven’t seen for a while as they always use the “skinny” word. So after visiting with my cousin for a couple of days I’d still not heard the word. I was beginning to wonder if his eyes were failing. Finally he took the opportunity to talk to my wife alone about my appearance—he used a different word, “sick”. He thought maybe I had disease or something and was afraid to say anything. No, I look like this on purpose; in fact, if you buy my book when it comes out I’ll tell you how I did it.

People always want to know how much weight have I lost? Well, let’s just say the five-year-old has gone missing and the HHS describes me as ‘healthy weight.”