It rained for six weeks straight one summer; the pen was a swamp and I began to fear that my toes would begin to form webs. I spent more time in muck boots than cowboy boots. It sucked. But I gotta tell you, I was ripped. When the pen’s a quagmire, you can’t cheat and load hay bales into the wheel barrow to take to the feeder. No, you have to carry all of the hay, bale by bale, out to the feeders in ankle-deep mud that threatens to pull the muck boots right off your feet.
I’m five foot nothing (well, on a good day, five feet one-half inch) and in order to get the bales into the feeder I had to essentially execute a clean-and-jerk up over my head. The tops of the round feeders are eye level for me, so imagine trying to lift a light fifty pound bale from knee level up over your head and then push it forward over the feeder and wiggle your gloved hands out of the twine before your fingers get popped off. Now imagine doing it with sixteen hungry horses trying to help and standing in mud that completely covers your feet and ankles.
Only once did I make the mistake of trying to set the bale down to get a better grip for my clean-and-jerk. Dumb move. Seemed like a good idea at the time. I gently set the bale down on the mud, hoping that the large surface area would keep it from sinking into the mud too far. You know, like laying supine when caught in quicksand. Increasing the surface area decreases the sinking speed.
I repositioned my hands, got a better grip, bent my knees so that I could lift with my legs and not my back. One, two, three, lift. Nothing. I tried again. One, two, three, lift. Nothing. The stupid bale wouldn’t budge. Then I realized my mistake – I hadn’t taken into account the suction-cup factor involved in pulling a fifty pound bale of hay up out of the mud before I sat it down. I should have nominated myself for a Darwin award for that move.
In the end, I had to forgo proper lifting technique in favor of using the toes of one foot to prop the hay bale up out of the mud. I planted my heel in the mud, pulled my toes up to the sky and attempted to balance the bale on my toes up out of the mud. It was beautiful. Kind of like the Keystone Kops, but not. I was the Keystone Wrangler.
But…I learned my lesson and earned some pretty sculpted arms during that summer of rain. And I never again sat a bale of hay down in the mud.
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