Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


The Zoo Keeper

MANual Labor

Layla Watkins

(2/10) I am not, nor have I ever been, a real girly-girl. Sure, I love a spa day with a manicure/pedicure. And yes, at times I like to get all gussied-up with my hair and make-up just so, jewelry, heels - dressed to kill, so to speak. Most of the time though, I'm a jeans, t-shirt, and pony-tail kind of girl who can use power tools just as confidently as I can use the vacuum cleaner.

Case in point: Last month I was working on remodeling our mudroom. All day, every day, and often until 2:00-3:00 a.m., I was smack in the middle of the construction. Not just painting and caulking, but ripping up flooring, sawing, sanding, and finishing drywall too. For my birthday, Wayne got me an orbital sander - not quite a manicure/pedicure, but it did save my hands from being torn up more than they already were.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. As hard as all the work was, I got a great feeling of pride and satisfaction from being able to do things that were a challenge. Though I must say, if I never see another bucket of drywall mud, it will be too soon. I have a whole new respect for drywall professionals - drywall work is truly an art.

At any rate, once my "man's work" was done on the mudroom, it was time for my "woman's work" on the rest of the house - cleaning up all the construction mess and washing drywall dust and sawdust off of every single surface imaginable. I had just gotten started on the clean-up the morning my farrier (horse-shoer) came for our appointment.

"Hey Darren, have you got a minute to help me load some drywall? I've got a few extra sheets I need to return."

"Sure, have you got a tarp?"

"Yeah, why? Are we supposed to get some bad weather?"

"You haven't heard? Snow is moving in this afternoon - we're supposed to get quite a bit."

"Really? I've been so wrapped up working on the mudroom, I haven't watched any TV or seen the weather. How much is 'quite a bit?' "

The First Wave

Wayne went to work Friday morning before the snow started, and because he had to help plow there, he would not return until late Saturday night - I was on my own. Shovel at the ready, I prepared for my return to doing "man's work."

At first it was really pretty - snow covering the trees, making everything look fresh and clean, very picturesque. The kids were having the time of their lives playing in it too. They built snow castles, slid down their snow covered slide, and when it was too deep for them to walk through it, they "swam" in it.

The horses were not so happy about being kept in their stalls. I had brought them in Friday night but didn't turn them back out Saturday morning because I knew as the day went on, the snow would be so deep that when it was time to bring them into the barn, I wouldn't be able to open the gate to their field.

Midday on Saturday I made my way out to the barn to check on them and freshen their hay and water. I had to shovel around the gate to get out of our yard and shovel a little around the barn door to get in, but other than that, I was able to get through the snow fairly easily.

By evening though, it was a different matter. My knees, mangled and arthritic to begin with and worsened by weeks of working in the mudroom, couldn't trudge through the 2 ½ feet of snow that now stood between me and the barn. So this time, I had to shovel a path through the yard, out the gate, and to the barn.

I fed and watered the horses, then started cleaning their stalls. As I pulled the muck bucket towards the door, I realized I would have to shovel another path to the manure spreader. "Wow," I thought. "It's times like these I wish I still boarded my horses."

Sunday morning was beautiful. It was time to get the horses out, which meant I now had to shovel a path from the barn to their field and dig out the gate enough to get them in and out. "You guys better appreciate all this shoveling I'm doing for you," I told them. I don't know if they did, but the incredible beauty of them running through the snow under sunny, crystal blue skies made me briefly forget my exhaustion.

Wayne had come home Saturday night but went back into work Sunday morning. When he got home Sunday afternoon, I unleashed my tales of snow-woe. "My knees are shot, my hands are raw, and my back is killing me. I can't do any more - I'm done."

Here We Go Again

As I watched the second wave blow in, completely obliterating the paths I'd worked so hard to clear just days before, I tried to fight the despair that was settling over me. Again, Wayne had to go into work, but this time he would be gone for four days. "This is too much, I just can't do this by myself." But since I really had no choice, I gave myself a pep-talk and got to work.

The kids were easy - grilled cheese, tomato soup, and The Disney Channel. I kept my cool as a watched the snow and ice pulling the gutters off the house and tried to not listen to news reports of roof collapses. I filled jugs and bathtubs with water in case we lost power and brought extra loads of wood inside for the woodstoves. Everything was under control - except I had no idea how I was going to get to the barn to take care of the horses.

By Wednesday evening, it was clear that it was not going to get better anytime soon so I would just have to make my way through. I took my shovel, which doubled as a walking stick, and wove my way between the biggest drifts. The gate out of the yard was completely buried so instead of digging it out, I scaled the fence.

As I approached the barn, my heart sank. There was a 6-7 foot snow drift up against the door. By the time I shoveled through enough of the drift for me to get to and open the door, it had been over an hour since I'd left the house. It is normally about a one-minute walk.

Over the next few days, I shoveled new paths to the barn, to the horses' field, and to the manure spreader. I shoveled out around the gates. I shoveled out my car. And then finally, when Wayne got home on Friday, I gave HIM the shovel. This time, I really was done. After all, it's called MANual labor for a reason.

Read other article by Layla Watkins