Farther Than You Think
I have a thing about small victories. I really like them.
In a world where so much, even what I can see right in front of my face, is beyond my control, there's something empowering about things that just go right. Especially when those things have the potential to go way wrong.
One of those situations faced squarely up to me this afternoon.
I had forty hay bales to use for barn hunt being delivered to the farm today. Because the weather was in a hurry to turn nasty, we had only this afternoon to move the hay. Plus, because the weather was forecast to be not only cold but snowy as well, the plan was to stack the bales in the indoor ring space of the training building. In other words, simply throwing the bales off the truck in the field and walking away wasn't an option. They would have to be brought in and stacked.
Dad was at work. Mom was running errands. Dorothy, whose truck we were using and who would have gladly helped, has been dealing with some health issues and so had to stand down.
It was all up to me.
Going into the game, I did not feel what you might call fighting fit. I was tired and sore. The day was gray and sullen, spattering us with occasional showers of sleet, and I could feel my mood souring to match. A new pillow I'd been experimenting with was not what my head and neck had ordered, and as a result, I was feeling slightly dizzy and off-balance.
This was not going to be fun.
Dorothy eased the pickup back to the door of the training building. The wind rushed and fretted at the northwest corner. Pebbles of sleet peppered the tin roof. Yuck.
I tugged on my gloves and approached the truck. Twenty-plus bales of heavy brome hay glowered down at me. The load loomed high over my head. Well, it was now or never. They weren't gonna move themselves.
I put a knee on the tailgate, hauled myself up, and started throwing hay.
At least for this first load, my mom was on hand with a hay hook. She was able to snag some of the bales on the ground and drag them into the building. I trudged doggedly after her, locking my leather fingers under the twine of each fifty-pound bale and muscling it into the training ring.
We were stacking along the south wall. The bottom tier was bales shoved up against the wall horizontally and laid end to end. Then came the next tier, bales laid perpendicular and packed together, one beside another.
Twenty-three down, seventeen to go.
Dorothy and I clambered back into the truck to fetch the second load. Mom was gone by then, so on our return, not only did I throw, but I also carried and stacked that entire load.
The air temperature was dropping, and the wind was rising. But under my heavy jacket, I was steaming with sweat. Hay was in my mouth and in my eyes, and in other places it had no right to be. I kept on stacking.
Third tier done, chest high and solid. I had one more tier to heave on top.
I was panting by now and trying not to show it. But I had also found a peculiar strength and rhythm in the work. Lifting those chunky bales from ground level, hefting them at least waist-high for the slog across the ring to the growing stack, and then hoisting them up to about nose-level and wrestling them on top was not easy. But it was doable.
I counted off a group of nine, and set myself to stack those. Then those were in the pile, the stack was higher and still solid, and I set myself eight more.
Dorothy and I made an awesome team. I would be a jerk if I didn't commend her help in guiding me as I marched from truck to stack and back again, or mention how she directed the positioning of each new bale muscled onto the stack.
Three bales to go and I knew I would get there. Two to go and I could smile and really mean it. (I probably had hay on my teeth by then.)
With only one bale remaining to throw on the stack, I felt like a victorious soldier as I lugged it across, heaved it up, and stashed it on top.
Job done. Mission accomplished. Let it snow.
And isn't that the way life goes? Things that seem largely impossible -- not enough help, not enough time, not feeling good enough or even feeling well. But with small steps and a stubborn heart, and telling yourself you can, when maybe you're the only one who says so -- and you can get those hay bales stacked. So pull on your boots and gloves, get in that pickup truck, and start throwing hay. I bet you can get farther than you think.