“Many hands make light work,” goes the old saying.
We’ve probably all heard or lived those words. It comes from an old English playwright named Heywood, Google tells me, but it’s as true today as it was in 1546.
I thought about it when I was folding and unfolding chairs for a township officers meeting, folding and unfolding chairs for coffee after church, folding and unfolding chairs for the Cub Scout pinewood derby … you get the idea.
If you’re part of a small town, a community or a group of one kind or another, you get to know the racks of folding chairs, and tables too.
When you have a job like setting up or tearing down a room full of folding chairs, it can be ditch-digging mon-otonous. But, with many hands, it’s a snap, and sociable.
My favourite story about the appreciation for an extra hand came from Nora, who used to live as neighbours to our ranch with her husband, Bud, and a house full of kids.
For most of her life, she spoke of my dad like he was a knight in shining armour, with a halo to boot. I always thought he was, too, but it was interesting to hear someone else talk about him like that.
As I remember hearing it, the knight status came when Dad was a young, single fella just starting out as a rancher. There wasn’t any television or internet, so sometimes you just rode over to the neighbours to visit.
Nora said she was just starting the tedious job of milking a dozen cows by hand one evening when she saw this vision to the east: a young, handsome cowboy riding in on a white horse (it was probably a grey colt that he was breaking, but she remembered it as a shining white steed).
The rest of her family were out in the hay field, or elsewhere, and Dad, being a helpful fella, just pulled up an extra three-legged stool and helped her hand milk those cows until the job was done.
She never forgot the gesture of a young cowboy who didn’t hesitate to step down from his horse and milk a barn full of cows with her. I remember Dad saying that she might have also been surprised at how good he was at the job. He’d always milked a couple cows for his mother and neighbours as a kid growing up and got to be pretty good at it.
Extra hands make light work, and can cut the milking time in half.
I was reminded of small gestures like that when the feed truck came out last week. I felt bad that I wasn’t in the yard when he got there and he had to open a gate, open the top to our old wooden granary and slide the boards in that keep the grain from coming out the door where I fill the buckets.
He wasn’t too concerned and waved off my apology. Then while the grain was unloading, I started carrying the buckets I’d previously filled out to the feed troughs for the calves. Our feed man just picked up some pails and pitched in with me until the bunks were all full.
He probably didn’t think it was a big thing, but it reminded me of that old story about Dad and Nora and the long line of milk cows, and folding chairs, community and neighbourly behaviour.
I don’t call around every time I’m ordering feed to see if the price is the most competitive right down to the penny. But when delivery comes with that kind of service, the penny becomes a little less relevant.
Ryan Taylor is a rancher, writer and senator in the state legislature from Towner, North Dakota.