Communicate This

KDBarnMy lifestyle has undergone a rather dramatic change in the past month, due to my dad’s unexpected illness. And that’s a ridiculous turn of phrase, isn’t it? I mean, really, who has expected illnesses? Psychics? Time travelers? That guy in your office who always calls in sick the Monday after the Super Bowl?

Anyway, during Dad’s recovery I am the number one chore girl, which is a nice change from the desk job. However, since I haven’t been around on a day to day basis for the past few years, I’m sort of clueless and require a lot of supervision. Which I appreciate. Really. But taking non-stop orders from my husband has been–how shall we say?–a bit of a test of our matrimonial bliss.

Communication is the answer, of course, but it took us a week to figure out the question, starting on the first morning when he made a vague gesture toward the west and said, “Load up some bales in the tractor bucket and take them over to the horses.”

I was somewhat baffled because I was under the impression that the herd of horses out in the pasture got big round bales, but I dutifully stacked the tractor bucket full of small squares and headed out.

My husband came roaring along in the pickup to flag me down. “Where the heck are you going?”

“To feed the horses,” I answered, because, Duh, isn’t that what he just told me to do?

“I meant the horses on the west side of the barn,” he said. “Not the west side of the ranch.”

“Oh. Well. You should be more specific.”

Sometimes, it’s a matter of semantics. As a person accustomed to communicating via written word, I occasionally find the lack of visible punctuation in the spoken language troublesome. Thus began the endless loop in which my husband attempted to instruct me to acquire medication for what he referred to as ‘heifer calves’. I assumed these to be ‘calves who are heifers’, when in fact what he meant was ‘calves born to heifers’. Which, technically, would be heifers’ calves, but he proved to be emphatically disinterested in discussing the finer points of grammar while one of said calves was showing signs of expiring at any moment.

Then there’s the non-verbal communication. We have the usual repertoire of arm waves and finger points for when the situation makes shouting impossible. Most often, this is because he is driving the tractor, and I’m running around on the ground doing the real intellectual stuff like cutting twine on round bales and making sure no baby calves stumble into his path and get squashed.

Lacking a functioning horn, his preferred method of getting my attention is to rev the tractor engine. Vroom! Point, gesture, No, go that way! I trot that way. Vroom! Point, gesture. No, I meant that gate! I trot over to the gate in question. Vroom! Point, gesture. Watch out for that cow. I watch out. Vroom! Point, gesture. Don’t forget to feed the bulls. And so on. And so on. All. Day. Long.

Luckily, I seem to be catching on fairly quickly. I require less supervision every day, and I’ve taken to making notes on my wrist with a Sharpie to shore up my notoriously faulty memory.  This is good, for both our collective blood pressure and our chances of reaching our next wedding anniversary. I can take instruction. I can take a hint. I can even take constructive criticism.

But honest to Pete, if he revs that engine at me one more time…


Kari Lynn Dell – Montana for Real