The two young and remarkably sleep-resistant boys flapped excitedly from the second floor window as their older brother James completed yet another lap around on the riding lawnmower. Evening sky was darkening rapidly, giving the scene a hazy-blue, Instagram quality. From up there I had a good view of four soiled tennis balls in a soggy, leafy gutter that should have been cleaned last November.
I was putting the boys to bed. Attempting to anyway. But neither the lawn spectacle nor my approach were helping. I was invoking what has become a sad new bedtime tradition on those especially exhausted nights: in lieu of traditional story time I was leafing the boys through a Tractor Supply catalog. It’s a fairy tale ending you’re not likely to hear anywhere else: “so the galvanized 48 inch goat fence and the 14 foot tube gate were married at last. And they lived happily ever after…”
Fencing materials had been top of mind. Right where James was out mowing stood a 300’ fence line I had been surveying for weeks that, if I could learn to build it – a big if, would give the goats another acre of lush pasture to graze. It would mean more milk, happier goats, and exactly 4.3% less yard to maintain. I weep for every blade of grass that isn’t processed by the animals – the pros call it “forage waste” – and mowing is an absolute last resort for me. It’s a desperate act undertaken only to preserve our last thin strand of external appearances.
As I read to the boys about fasteners and hinges I could see the creeping heaviness of fatigue on their eyelids. But then the mower would circle back around and they would spring to life – banging against the bedroom window like they were sitting in the front row of a Game 7 at the Joe Louis Arena. I appreciated the rooting and the camaraderie, but the whole thing was making my job considerably harder. And it was making a lot of noise that would not go unnoticed downstairs.
The boys squealed with laughter each time a loud “whazzump” pierced the steady drone of the mower. I didn’t have the heart to tell them the source of those funny sounds: a drugstore aisle worth of newly pulverized whiffle ball bats, decapitated action figures, and diced-up Tonka trucks.
I put the catalog down and joined the boys in the front row. That lawnmower makes me look like a circus bear on a bike, but it made James look as skinny as a Barcelona street busker. As he jetted across the rippled, mole-ravaged lawn his upper body bounced wildly, making him appear, during certain extra-bouncy moments, like a bobble-head doll. Concentration stained his face as he stretched legs and toes to their absolute limits to work the pedals. Proper steering required extra leaning for leverage. But despite all the effort he kept his poise, sat tall, and kept eyes affixed to the grass just ahead. He was figuratively empowered by the very literal operation of power equipment.
Work and responsibility are good for a boy. That’s the hope anyway, that the time stolen from the virtual screens and invested in real world activities will help the kids develop into sturdy societal contributors. That they will learn to value real labor in a world driven by an increasingly volatile job market. A world in which you’re five thousand times less likely to receive the gold watch than you are to be told to pack your things, thanks for the service, you’re no longer needed, effective immediately.
We live in a highly-structured society with far too many MBAs. You see it in the 37 varieties of supermarket toothpaste, the Under Armour lines marketed to kids that haven’t even yet developed sweat glands, and the cupcake company IPOs. Whether we want to admit it or not, the vast majority of us in the working world are but numbers in a great big spreadsheet. Our bosses work for other bosses. And those big bosses are itching to make a big splash. They want to birth the next great management approach. They dream of a book deal and a Forbes photo shoot and a big building on campus. They want to “monetize” anything and everything.
As poor James bounded around his last lap, a broad sense of satisfaction stamped on his narrow face, he had no way of knowing that the Vice President of Farming was fixing to soon eliminate that beloved mowing job. Like all those other MBAs in all those other corner offices, I was plotting to reorganize the farm, rationalize labor costs, and leverage alternative labor pools.
I was planning to outsource his job.
To a goat.
It would be the advent of my own cutting-edge management platform: “Goatsourcing™”
But as that management whiz sat at the window dreaming of all the ways to capitalize on that brilliant new concept, the engine on the mower, suddenly caught on one too many of those Tonka trucks, sputtered violently and stopped before shooting a spectacular plume of sparks into the deep blue of twilight. The boys – the ones who were supposed to be sound asleep – roared with approval.
A second later I heard that peculiar rhythm of urgent-sounding footsteps bounding up the steps. The Boss was vocally demanding to know why little people weren’t yet in little beds.
When she saw us all sitting at the window laughing she called for a massive restructuring of Bedtime Operations.
Thanks for your service, Paul, but you’re no longer needed.
ha ha ha ha. Outsourced to goats. the best! thanks for a wonderfully written piece, I can see it, feel it, hear it.
It is a good night when I can dive into your blog right before bedtime, the images that fill my head cause me to dream of things far more superior then anything a day in this crime filled city can offer. Regards..Gino.
R Sent from my Galaxy S®III
Thanks for the kind words Gino – but don’t sell your city short: there is nothing – and I mean nothing – superior to a cheesesteak (preferably from Jim’s on South St. and preferably ‘wit’ Whiz’)
I really enjoyed reading your post.
Thanks Tracy. Glad you enjoyed.
Loved this post! I’m here from the Homestead Barn Hop. You speak truth about this business world…we’re all numbers. I find it a struggle to justify my job in the great scheme of life – I’m a consumer not a producer. I work all week at a desk, neglecting things at home, to make money, to spend the money on weekend, and then arrive back at the desk on Monday wishing I had more time with my husband and son. That will change here in about three months – good changes. And for the record – I’m horrible at bed time so Hubby kicks me out of son’s room and assumes bedtime duty. I can’t help it that the boy and I are two peas in a pod when it comes to chatting at bedtime!
Thanks for stopping by Deanna – glad you found this little corner of the internet. And I’m glad to know I’m not the only one being relieved of bedtime duties! Congrats on the upcoming good changes!
Paul – excellent images, including the frown I imagine on your bride’s face as she renegotiates those bedtime rituals. When my stepson Joe was about 4 – I became a favorite, because I would tell stories about “Joeville,” where everyone had some derivative name of Joe. The adventures were always outrageous, the villians vanquished, and Joe reigned supreme… Keep up the wonderful writing!
Thanks for the tip. I try to do ‘homemade’ stories as much as possible, but admit to pulling out an old catalog as proxy more times than I probably should!
Awesome post! I’m here from the barnyard hop. Loved reading your view on goatsourcing. I’ve been wondering about that here, and didn’t realize it had a name. Only, I am the only one on the mower, and many stumps, making it necessary for a switch from riding to walking. But I digress. I find myself pondering the possibilities of fencing and baby goats, and more chickens, and rabbits, oh my. Would it be more work?? Perhaps I should just stop watering.
Anyway, thanks for the great read.
Thanks for stopping by Lori. There’s nothing I love more than to look out the window and see the animals chomping away at the grass (and weeds). Either way it’s work – but as they say” if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life!
I have three goats. I’m wondering what other goatsourcing jobs they could do, but I’m strongly suspecting that “weeding the garden” is NOT one of them. We appear to have different ideas about what constitutes a weed.
Too funny! Another job that cannot be “goatsourced” is “tending to the apple orchard”……
Good story Paul……another 1st prize winner…love, Mom
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In the immortal words of Donald Trump: “You’re fired!”
Thank you for linking up with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week- I can’t wait to see which species replaces your services next. 😉
Kathy Shea Mormino
The Chicken Chick
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