So You Think You’re Tough?

Mazie Snow Crop

I like to think I’m tough. Here’s how I know I’m not.

The other day I was re-reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy. I love reading about these hardy pioneers. I mostly love to read about them while sipping tea in my fuzzy slippers.

Now these folks were tough. Back then, it got so cold that when they went out on the horse-drawn sleigh, they would have to pause and hold a mittened hand to the horse’s muzzle. This defrosted the ice buildup and allowed them to breathe.

This gives me pause every time I get that tingly sensation in my nostrils on a really cold day. (Think for a moment about what you consider to be a really cold day. We’ll come back to that in a moment.)

In the middle of winter, they prepare the icehouse for next summer. They go to the lake and cut, with a handsaw, 20”x20”x20” blocks of ice. Then they carry each block with big metal tongs, load the sleigh, unload the sleigh, stack them in the icehouse, and tamp them down with sawdust. Which all sounds like a hard day’s work until I googled, just out of curiosity, how much a 20” cube of ice weighs.

Here’s what I found.

According to this ice weight calculator (Google has everything), a 20”x20”x20” block of ice, or 8000 cubic inches, would weigh just shy of… 265 lbs. Two-hundred-sixty-five pounds*! Slung with a pair of metal tongs and stacked to the roof of the icehouse.

That goes from a hard day’s work to an impossibility. I think I’m doing good when I can sling a 30lb bag of dog food.

I take another sip of tea.

Tough Temperatures

Then I read how when it gets below -40°F (minus forty! How does that compare to your “really cold day?”) the father goes out in the middle of the night to run the calves around the barnyard. This exercise warms them up. Otherwise, they could freeze to death in their sleep.

I would like to point out that this gives a whole new perspective to the idea of running in circles. Running in circles can, in fact, save your life. I’m going to use this to console myself the next time I feel like I’m stuck on life’s dark treadmill.

I would like to additionally point out that we also have a Father who sometimes makes us get up and run around the barnyard. He goads us out of complacency but within the confines of his will and it feels, if I’m being honest, quite mean.

It is probably saving our life.

Sometimes we’d rather just curl up in the straw and take a nap. Sometimes we’re waiting for the gate to be flung open so we can finally charge down the road to the future. Instead, we’re stuck in between. Not able to rest, and not able to get anywhere either. Running in circles.

Could we choose to ignore the prodding and stay right where we are? Of course.

Could we sneak through the fence and charge into greener pastures? Of course.

Is it going to go well with us if we do? Probably not.

Tough Lessons in the Barnyard

God gives us lessons in the barnyard. I don’t know what they all are, and quite honestly, I wish I’d learn them sooner. But, I do know that God says we are to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him. And we better do that in the barnyard before we go charging down the road. Otherwise, we’re likely to end up in a tangled heap in the ditch, as young Almanzo’s calves did when he let them through the gate too soon.

Is there something you are grasping for that always seems just out of reach? Maybe it’s time to pause and listen. Take another walk around the barnyard.

Are you just… so… tired, you aren’t sure you can put one foot in front of the other? Don’t give up. Spring is coming. Take another walk around the barnyard.

There are lessons we can learn from these hardy pioneers. About toughness. About perseverance. About patience.

About gratitude for things like fuzzy slippers.

I think I’ll go microwave some tea.

*Because I didn’t believe this number, I kept googling, and every calculation I ran came back to this number. If anyone has a different calculation, let me know!

This post was first written and shared at inspireafire.com. Enjoy some fuzzy slipper time this Valentine’s Day!

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Meet Janet!

Janet Beagle, PhD is the founder of The Mustard Patch. She divides her time between the Midwest and New England, and if she’s not writing, she’s probably out hiking with her 2-and 4-footed friends.