Man Puzzles


    “You should be useful as well as ornamental.”

    That was one of the sharply barbed comments my riding instructor, Katrina, used to bark at me when I was a kid. Typically I’d be standing around daydreaming while some other kid in the lesson program was dutifully raking the barn aisle. As a horsewoman, Katrina’s world view makes some sense, especially when it comes to men. We need our men to do something other than stand around being manly. Ornamental and decorative is fine. Nothing wrong with a good-looking guy in jeans and a flannel shirt, right? But at the end of the day I want to know if that fellow can put the wheel back on my muck cart or heft 10 bales of orchard grass out of my pickup. And stack it properly.

    You see, though I consider myself proficient in the daily care of my horses, there are occasionally some duties that are particularly suited to men. These are things I can’t figure out how to fix. At first I’d get frustrated. After all, if I can take apart a running martingale and then re-fit it onto a snaffle bridle, my mental faculties must still be intact. But now I figure I have nothing to prove by deliberating over tedious challenges. I simply turn to my husband Ron and proclaim, “Here. This is a man puzzle. Figure it out and hand it back to me when you’re done.”

    The latest man puzzle was a leather show halter with a stubborn brass nameplate. It had belonged to one of my sister’s colts, and she’d tossed it onto a pile of stuff we were taking to the consignment store. Only problem? The first Chicago screw holding the nameplate in place had come off easily. But the other one refused to budge, despite my sister, our mom, and I wrestling with it an entire arsenal of handheld tools. So I took it home to Ron and laid it at his feet.

    “Man puzzle,” I stated. I then twirled the nameplate around several times like a whirligig, and then tugged on it to demonstrate that it needed to go bye-bye. “Please fix,” I commanded.

    Life with Horses - Man Puzzles

    I don’t know what all Ron did, but he took the halter and the clinging nameplate and strode into the deep, cavernous hollows of our garage like a gunslinger. There was a whirring of electric tools, a few hammer blows and something dropped to the cement floor with a twang. He then emerged into the sunlight, carrying the halter in one hand and the defeated nameplate in the other. Man puzzle solved.

    See? Sometimes guys are useful as well as ornamental!

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