It had been a lovely summer afternoon. My niece, Nicole, was visiting the Rondarosa with a brood of kids in tow and we all were enjoying a lazy, country afternoon.
After a picnic, Nicole and I chatted around the table while the six kids played in the pump house, splashed in the river, and enjoyed the horses. After a few hours, she called them to get ready to leave then began to pack up the picnic. Her cell phone rang and the merriment for the kids soon ended.
This is a tremendous peril of cell phones. They know just when to ring to steal a person’s joy.
She clicked off then looked at the 15-year-old and 11-year-old boys and announced, “Your granddaddy and uncle Rod are putting up a pasture fence and want you to come and help.”
Nix, the oldest and one of the sweetest young men ever, slumped his head and shoulders. “Awwwww.” His mother offered gentle encouragement then I offered my two cents.
“Nix, this is important to do because when you put up a pasture fence on a hot, muggy day like this, it’ll make you want to get a good education so you can work in air conditioning and have an easier job than having to labor outside.”
Tink’s manager, Stan, is a person I wildly admire. Stan, a farmer’s son, grew up in rural Virginia. His daddy made him work the farm and it was then Stan decided that, whatever it took, he’d never get up hay for living.
“It was the hottest part of summer,” he told me. “My dad was working me hard. I made up my mind then and there, I’d get out.”
Stan took that country boy training and went to Hollywood where no one can outwork him. He has a lot of top clients he manages as well as producing movies and, it probably goes without saying, he’s making a lot more money than the poor ol’ farmer laboring against the stubborn land and nature’s unpredictability. I always think that Stan is not running toward success near as hard as he is running away from the hot hay fields of Virginia. He’s determined to do his sweat and toil in a well-appointed, air-conditioned office.
His father’s training has served Stan well.
“Too,” I continued with my two cents to Nix, “you need to learn to do these things so you can take care of yourself. Everything you learn to do like this makes you less dependent on others who, you will find, are not often dependable.”
A big tree limb has just fallen on a pasture fence of ours and I had patched the barbed wire and re-anchored it. A few weeks earlier, we had been visiting at the Los Angeles home of Tink’s brother, Mark, and his wife, Chandra. Mark was out of town, directing a network series, while the three of us were preparing dinner. Suddenly, we heard a gurgling, explosion of water. We ran to the powder room to see water shooting up like a geyser from the commode. Tink was fiddling with the lever while I dove for the turn-off valve which stopped the water.
Chandra, a beautiful actress, was astounded and impressed. “Ronda! How did you know how to do that?”
I shrugged. “Many years of having to figure out house problems when no one else was around.” When Mark called a bit later, she told the story in a hilarious, entertaining way. All I can say is I’ve had to learn the hard way. And, usually, it was on a weekend or a holiday when I couldn’t get a repairman on the phone.
Nix listened. He nodded. I said, “I know you’ll do the right thing.”
“Yes, he will,” agreed Nicole.
And so he did. And one day when a pasture fence needs repairing after a winter’s ice storm, he’ll be mighty glad for what he learned in the heat of summer.
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “Mark My Words – A Memoir of Mama.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.]