Monday, August 24, 2015

Couple Time

We thought when Mark got his cast off it would mean he could use his wrist again. Nope, not so lucky. The doctor put on a splint and gave him explicit instructions. “No loading!” I had to ask him,  “What about shoveling? Pushing? Pulling?” Nope, it all counts as loading. Mark looked askance at the doctor and said, “but that’s my life.”

And it gets worse. His other wrist needed a splint too with the same accompanying instructions. The doc thinks it’s a partially torn tendon and may not heal as well as the other fractured wrist, especially if he isn't careful to “not load” it.

Then to top it off, Jesse got bucked off a few days after Mark and broke three ribs! Groan.

So anyway, we’re getting by. The biggee this time of year is flood irrigating. I've been going with Mark on his route every day and am getting pretty good at setting dams and pulling ornery tins. I do exactly what he says. (For a change!) Each ditch has a different character. Some are silt and you can just tuck the edge of the dam in with a dull shovel. Others are flat and wide and pure sand and you need to dig all along the edge and place shovelfuls of sand on top of it. Some are too deep to stand in and you have to straddle them. And to replace the tumbleweeds of this spring, we've now got tumbling mustard that collects in wads that need pitched.     

It’s obvious the job is geared up for a strong man, not a woman. At least not a woman of my bench pressing ability. I'm sure the newly anointed women Rangers could do it without a hitch, but not me. I get it done, though, with some cheaters along the way. I can usually use a lever apparatus of some kind to get the tin headgates open. To haul dams I hoist one end on Mark’s shoulder and put the other end on my shoulder. That works pretty good.

I enjoy most of it. Flood irrigating is such healthy work. It's an obstacle course - jump ditches, climb sidehills, lift with your legs, tug, pitch, shovel - and lots of walking. There's pheasants to flush, deer to spy, weeds to pull and abundant grass to wade through. We took a walk through one of the windbreaks one evening eating buffalo berries. It's a great way to see the ranch.

It’s been an eye-opener for both of us. We depend on Mark’s physical abilities to run this ranch. What would we do if he had been hurt worse? What will we do when age becomes a factor? It makes you feel pretty vulnerable. Of course everyone who gets hurt or has other health issues finds out the same thing. We take our health for granted.

Mark is realizing (I hope) that some things he puts up with need a design change. Maybe he could re-do the concrete checks so that someone of lesser strength could operate them? Maybe a makeshift lever on every sticky headgate would be a good thing. Maybe the dam poles don’t need to be so “dam” heavy!

The other thing that weighs on my mind is the number of hours Mark puts in doing physical labor. He’s got so many gifts to share with the world. Is shoveling for hours a day worth the cost? Is our old-timey method of irrigation still viable? It's lo-input yes - on everything but the operator. These are tough questions we grapple with, then fall comes and the urgency fades until spring.   

I know it’s been hard for Mark. He walks around in a gloomy state, but mostly I’m feeling blessed. He didn’t get hurt worse. His concussion has healed. What if his wrists hadn’t taken part of the brunt of the fall? What then?

We got this.

yes, it held

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