Eventually I found a place that had cheap (Chinese made?) gates on sale. They were about half the cost of the original gates. All I needed to do was drive 50 miles round trip, buy gates that were 1 3/4” diameter “pipe” (tubing) instead of 2”, wait for them to go on sale, and gladly accept construction of cheap thin tubing instead of the studly critter stopping awesomeness I’d seen at the Feed Store. I could live with all that if they were the proper red color. The guy on the phone insisted they were red. (Apparently gates are color coded. Red means “cheap” and green means “there’s a bull in this lot”. You learn something new everyday.)
Even so, this was fun for me. At the “city slicker hardware store” I sauntered up to the counter with a 50# bag of chicken feed over my shoulder. (Ever wait in like while carrying 50#? I tried to look cool but it’s not easy.) At the checkout I leaned on the counter trying to pretend I was Cowboy McHardcore instead of like a fat old bearded blogger with some piglets on a decrepit homestead.
I had to wait a while. The checkout girl (I mentally named her “Checkout Drone”) struggled with basic arithmetic so much it made my teeth hurt. I was third in line and each person before me was delayed and left thinking sad thoughts about public schools. When oil filters are two for $10 and you can’t figure the price of one… well maybe you should have studied in school. Possibly that means you should have studied in fourth grade. She seemed nice but just way too dumb for a cash register. Luckily I was in no hurry.
On her third try she rang up the guy in front of me. It was my turn. The laser scanner gadget did the chicken feed just fine. She looked relieved.
Curmudgeon: “Also, I’m gonna’ need a gate. They’re on sale.”
Checkout Drone: “That’s fine. Just bring it here and I’ll scan it.”
Curmudgeon: “Um… that’s an issue.”
Checkout Drone: “It’s heavy? You need help carrying it to the checkout?”
Curmudgeon: “It’s a twelve foot gate. You want me to haul it through the store?”
Checkout Drone: Realizing what she was asking. “Oh my, we don’t sell those too often.”
Everyone else was buying extension cords and lawnmower blades. I, mighty Curmudgeon that I am, was buying cattle gates. How cool is that? For once I was a stud! I wished I’d planned ahead and worn overalls, maybe my straw hat too. You can’t be a farmer without a straw hat so Mrs. Curmudgeon bought me one. (Not surprisingly straw hats are really handy.) How often can a man wear a straw hat non-ironically in public?
After some mental gymnastics that clearly caused pain, Checkout Drone found the code to enter for “12′ Cheap Ass Gate”. She smiled when the computer totaled it up for her.
Checkout Drone: “OK is that all?”
Curmudgeon: Checking that the sale price rang up; it did. “I’ll take six.”
This gave her a double take. Yeah baby! I’m a cowboy and a macho dude; me and my obviously huge herds of expensive cattle. The guy behind me looked sheepish. He was buying kitty litter. I felt like a million bucks. There is nothing that men do anywhere that doesn’t have an air of competition. It was nice to be on the macho end of the scale for once.
Checkout Drone: “Six? You sure must have plenty of livestock.”
Curmudgeon: Shrugging “We’ll you gotta’ do what you gotta’ do right? Lets hope the weather holds.”
The Checkout Drone nodded like I’d said something with actual meaning. So did the guy behind me.
This was a lesson I won’t forget. If you’re a farmer (or posing as one) apparently you can say any old crap that comes to your head so long as you punctuate it with concern for the weather. This is probably how Congress created the Farm Bill.
My day was about to get better.
Checkout Drone handed me my receipt. “Take this outside and the guy will meet you there to unlock the chain and help you load your gates.”
Curmudgeon: “Thanks Ma’am.” (Oh I liked that. I wish I’d been raised in the South where people learn to say Ma’am and Y’all. It would go well with my straw hat.)
Checkout Drone grabbed a microphone and paged the whole store. “Mike, come up front, we got a guy that needs a gate.”
Go ahead. Stroke my ego more!
Checkout Drone looked at me quizzically. Clicking off the microphone she asked “How will he find you in the parking lot?”
Is this really a problem? I eyed my receipt. I assumed me and Mike could handle it. Yet Checkout Drone was clearly worried.
I described my truck and said I’d meet Mike at the gates. I smiled and hefted my bag of feed. On the way out I heard it, music to my ears, “Mike, meet the customer’s truck at the gates, a big dually 4×4.”
Yeah, I’m shallow. Who isn’t?
My big honkin diesel is an expensive luxury that I very much enjoy. It also carried the gates like it was built for it; which it was. I cruised home happy in the knowledge that I was carrying a load that would kill a Prius. It’s important to enjoy the little pleasures in life.
P.S. I have fallen in love with the the phrase “You gotta’ do what you gotta’ do right? Lets hope the weather holds.” It’s a rural mantra that gets you anything you need; the farmer version of “these aren’t the droids you are looking for”. Don’t try it in Detroit and don’t try it if you’re driving a Prius, but if you’re driving a load of horseshit in Wyoming it’s the keys to the world.