By Guinn Sweet
MINERAL WELLS — “God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers, and thrusts the thing we have prayed for in our face, A gauntlet with a gift in’t” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in Bk l, Aurora Leigh ).
I think Miss Browning, in her muse, had nothing near to the same mindset I had recently when I prayed about the weather. Her mind was running along the same vein as mine, but there’s a big gap in our basic thinking. She got a gauntlet with a gift in it while I got a gift with a gauntlet in it.
Let me explain.
My husband is not a “sit-around-in-the-house person,” even in cold, windy weather. He needs something to make, repair or tinker with. For example, he decided last fall to overhaul his welding machine and replace the floor of the trailer upon which it sits. His reason was that if anyone wanted to borrow it, then it would be ready.
As you know, the winter weather descended before he could get it finished, and since he has been forbidden to go outside to play if the temperature is below 70 degrees and there is a wind blowing (lest he have pneumonia again), the thing has been hanging in the big tree in our front yard since November.
Now to get to today’s story, our red-haired daughter’s son, Lee, decided to install a DirecTV thing to our television, with old television shows programmed. That was fine for me, with Andy Griffith, Jack Lord and Karl Malden all playing their various and many characters, with an occasional Matt Dillon and his droopy-pants “view” intruding upon the introduction of “Gunsmoke.”
Colon got tired of those too-familiar folks and began wishing for either weather good enough to go back to his welder, or for the Robert Mitchum, Clint Eastwood, Yul Brynner and Richard Boone types of “heroic villains” to watch. And thereby hangs this tale (or horse’s tail, if you prefer). You guessed it, Lee came back and re-installed a program that featured the 500s channels, which assured rootin’-tootin’ westerns around the clock, literally!
I don’t want to give the impression that I sit there with him, watching all that stuff, but the sound reaches my ears, wherever I am in the house. Gunshots intrude on my deep- thinking the answers to my puzzles. The sound of attacking Indians interrupts my Bible reading. The sound of galloping hooves enter my hearing apparatus and refuses to leave until they exit with my dreams. When I sit down to my kitchen table, I reach out, expecting to have a deck of cards placed in my hands, or an open whiskey bottle and a glass on the table before me.
The “old days of the west” have so taken over my world that each time Colon asks me to turn up the heat, I bring in a stack of wood I have just chopped. When he needs a clean shirt, I get out the washtub, the washboard and a bar of lye soap and get to work. When he is fixing breakfast and asks me to hand him the eggs, I go outside and raid the hens’ nests. It has gotten so bad, that when I feel a need to go to the bathroom, I usually head out the back door!
It’s not just my waking hours that are affected. I even dream of the wild west. Dreams of cattle drives and rustler attacks haunt my sleep. A fast-draw “showdown” in front of The Longhorn Saloon sometimes wake me up. In some dreams, I find myself sitting on the top of the piano, singing cowboy songs while my cowboy friend plays poker … at least until he catches the dealer cheating, then I get shot in the melee. (It always hurts, getting shot in the melee.)
As far as the recent “gift” to my husband … yes, it keeps him in the house during the cold weather, but has drastically changed my prayers. Now I pray for the weather to change, and for him to forsake the television programs. If things don’t change pretty soon, the “gift” will become a “gauntlet” and I will start hitting someone very near me, with that same gauntlet.
One of Webster’s definitions for gauntlet is the one I use in this context. It reads, “Two lines of men facing each other and armed with sticks or other weapons with which they beat a person forced to run between them.” Get the picture?
Contact Guinn Sweet at firstname.lastname@example.org.