Ranch Ingenuity: The Wisdom of Looking Away

I grew up in a house with a Dad who was (and still is) a pretty handy guy.  My Dad, a learned man, was able to fix most catastrophes befalling our house with little to no collateral damage.  Granted, there would be some frustrated sighs, the occasional few feet of recalcitrant wire yanked out of the wall, tools could be flung, or when things got really bad, my Dad could be heard shouting his trademark non-curse “Jesus Christmas.” That was as bad as it ever got.  My Dad had an impressive collection of power tools, including saws of many sizes and terrifying shapes.  More important however, than any tool in his collection, was my Dad’s healthy relationship with reality, coupled with his complete lack of desire to lose a limb.  My Dad’s fear of antibiotic resistant infections known to lurk in hospitals tempered any fleeting weekend warrior fervor that may have tried to sink its claws into his better judgment.  He knew when to step aside and call in a professional. My Dad was confident in admitting his limitations, and therefore stayed clear of perilous things like heavy machinery, explosives, and for that matter chopsticks.  I am fairly certain that this trait is one of the things that keeps him alive to this day.  It was this sort of reasoned approach that I (perhaps foolishly) expected most people to live by, until I moved to The Ranch…

Prior to my relocation, I had heard some of the folklore surrounding The Ranch, and what I believed to be testosterone fueled tall tales of head injuries, lost brakes, the occasional falling tree, and unintended electrocutions.  In the alternate universe of The Ranch, what may seem like fiction is all too often “cautionary tale inspiring” fact.  In truth, the men that inhabit the ranch are legendary for their enthusiastic, albeit tenuous relationship with power tools and heavy machinery.

It was a mere 6 weeks into my new life on The Ranch when I received the call.  It was a Friday at 4:59 PM and I was walking out of the office.   Thinking it was a routine “what’s your 20” call, I answered it rather casually.  To my horror, it went something like this, “Hey Babe, I cut myself,  I’m heading to the emergency room, Rick’s gonna to drive me.”  That was it.  The super powers bestowed on me by right of having XX chromosomes enabled me to instantaneously analyze that conversation and immediately determine that things were BAD.  My Beloved sounded vaguely drunk, which is entirely out of character, so that could only mean one thing…blood loss.  The drunken stupor that I heard on the line was brought on by a dark cocktail of shock and profuse bleeding.

On my hour drive up to the emergency room, I determined that the literal translation of “I cut myself,” was really, “I caught my leg with the skill saw (oh the irony!) while I was trying to cut a hole in the house for the dog door.”  Details of my Beloved being “ashen” when he limped into the ER also surfaced.  18 stitches later, the lesson learned was:  operating power tools in a confined space while being enthusiastic and unsupervised is a bad thing.

As a result of this incident, I have made a firm, although difficult to enforce decree–the unsupervised use of power tools is verboten.  I also made it clear that supervision should be done by someone who demonstrates healthy skepticism about the job at hand.  This is a tall order in a land where the use of eye protection and sunscreen are routinely laughed off as being a sure sign of homosexuality.

The upshot of this near tragedy was the temporary chilling effect it had on the reckless use of tools on The Ranch.  I knew that this “pax romana” of peril would be short lived.  Behold what I shall call Bulldozer Brilliance:

I came home to this scene a few weeks ago, again on a Friday, after work.  My Beloved had initially distracted my view of his dozer, lying in a humiliated heap on the side of a hill, with a cheerful kiss and a suspiciously innocent “Hey Babe.”  When my eyes made contact with this mess, they immediately turned to him and scanned him for any evidence of blood or visible injury.  Seeing none gave me no relief. I was fixated on how he was able to climb from the wreckage. Before I could ask any questions, he had jumped into the cab of the nearby excavator and started using its arm to try and dig the dirt out from around the dozer, hoping it would “right” itself.  Sensing imminent disaster, I called the only person I can faithfully count on to be my ally in the fight against Ranch nonsense, his Mom.  She appeared on the scene with a quickness. Thus began rigorous, yet fruitless pleading with my Beloved.  Ranch optimism and ingenuity are hard wired into his DNA. Our efforts were no match for the wild eyed, enthusiasm that routinely skews his internal “danger” gauge. In the end, thankfully, he was right. Using the excavator arm, he carved away the dirt on the right side of the fallen dozer and it gently moved down, righting itself, barely kicking up the copious loose dirt around it.

Both of these near misses have occurred in the short 5 months of my stay on the ranch. This would yield a Ranch Annual Incident Average of just over 4 per year. My historical account here does not include the numerous minor injuries sustained on a weekly basis, nor is there any way to account for the “incidents” that occur when I am not around. Although unconfirmed, I am certain that there is a Ranch Code of Silence observed by the men folk. With this in mind, I am already working on my justification to Anthem Blue Cross about why a long sojourn to Paris is in fact therapeutic and necessary to treat my Ranch induced PTSD.

With the significant probability of that claim being denied, here enters the wisdom of looking away. I have none other than my Beloved’s Mom to thank for introducing me to this simple, effective, and critical arrow in the quiver of a Ranch woman. Having lived among these men for some time, she knows a few things. Learning to look away while nonsense is afoot is an essential coping mechanism. How does it work? Once our men put heavy machinery, blow torches, saws, questionable combustion engines, gerry-rigged home appliances, or make shift tools into use, we quickly inquire about the wisdom of what is about to take place, shake our heads, and look away. That is it. Ultimately, looking away keeps our men MEN, and preserves the red blooded American frontier spirit that fuels Ranch Ingenuity. To nag would be to stifle–neither is attractive or necessary. Looking away shows discipline and faith. Our Ranch men have earned that respect. They are a dying breed. In many ways, looking away is very Parisienne. An unflappable shrug of the shoulders and a “C’est Normal” is quintessentially French. I am getting better at it.

Despite the harrowing situations arising from Ranch Ingenuity, I have to say it has my utmost respect. Ranch men can fix or build just about anything, and when they can’t, you can be sure they have exhausted all reasonable and unreasonable avenues of repair and design. In an age when men are routinely emasculated and skinny jeans for them are in vogue, it is incredibly refreshing to see real men doing classically masculine things. I will take my overly optimistic, enthusiastic, alpha-male Marine with a “can-do” attitude any day, over an infantilized, whiney, mama’s boy who’s never laid a hand on a wrench and thinks Massey-Ferguson must be a small production winery with a year long waiting list. Ranch Ingenuity, long may it reign.

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