Down and Dirty, but “Purdy!”

Many moons ago, when my mother was the age I am now, and I was but a girl of 16, my father came home one memorable day and announced to us that we were moving. To a farm. Although I was a tomboy with three older brothers, I was a city girl through and through. It’s all I had known.

As a family, we would be moving to a 10 acre farm, next to 3000 acres of state land, to a public school with a graduating class of 32.  Yep, I was downsizing as president of my class of 400, to 32 classmates, and upsizing from an 1/8 of an acre lot in the city, to thousands of acres in my backyard.

In order to get me to go without kicking and screaming, my father bribed me with a horse. He was a smart man.

Most of you know that horses are a huge part of my life and I have no problem getting down and dirty with ‘em. And others know me as a gussied up artist, author, and speaker. As Kippling writes, “Never the twain shall meet.” My wardrobe is determined by the activity of the day, yet whatever I’m wearing on the outside, doesn’t change the me I am on the inside. The old idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” is, well, cliché-like, but, it’s still relevant today.

Country Life

A month after we moved to the farm, on a blazingly hot summer day, my father ordered manure from our neighbor’s farm to fertilize the small garden he was tilling. I remember the moment the manure arrived. The fresh droppings reeked and steamed. But that’s not what I remember the most. Our neighbor’s ten year old daughter was sitting plop on top of the manure pile, with a wide grin, happy as a pig in….well you know.

My mother, father and I grabbed our shovels to start pushing the manure off the wagon into the garden. The little girl with the huge smile sitting in the stewing cow chips, looked at my mother incredulously. “What are you afraid to get them rings dirty?” she asked as she pushed the shit off with her bare feet. My mother stared back in horror.

Now my mother is not an outdoor person per se, but she did a great job of humoring her five children and outdoor-loving husband through countless camping trips, homeless animals, moves to the country, etc. But I don’t think I could ever picture her shoveling dung with her feet. On the other-hand I don’t think that grinning girl on top of that manure mountain would ever sit still in a theater either. But I don’t know, I lost track of her. Who am I to judge that she couldn’t or wouldn’t?

Wilderness Camping

On my solo cross-country journey by horseback, I did a lot of wilderness camping and would go days without eating or showering. Yep, I reeked, I’m sure, like the compost on that hot summer day, but there was something about the solace of the wilderness that helped to heal me on that long journey.

One stop in particular reminded me of that long-ago judgment day with my neighbor’s little girl. Camping for two days in a park outside of a penitentiary in rural Indiana, I was sitting under a tree journaling when a truck hauling a two-horse trailer arrived. I paid them no mind and continued writing. After tacking and mounting up, the owners made their way to me. They were retirees out for a late-summer ride and had never before encountered in their horse park a wild-haired, dirty, lone woman parked under a tree writing with two horses grazing beside her. Was she an escapee from the penitentiary—or worse yet, waiting to help a convict escape on her other horse? Still I paid them no attention as they inched in closer with their mounts—until the wife leaned over and whispered, “Is that a boy or a girl?” I looked up with a smile and said, “I’m a girl with a Master’s and perfectly good hearing.” But I sure didn’t look it.

Real Purdy

Last night, as I was mounting up for a high profile event with my horse, I had to pee. With no facilities around, I sheepishly entered my horse trailer, closed the door, and had to make do sitting plop on top of a manure bucket with freshly steaming dung, just like that little girl from my childhood. Who knew that would be me someday?

This morning after getting all-gussied up for work, I had to stop by my partner’s office to drop something off. He introduced me to the office cleaning lady, a nice enough woman, who totally misread me. She leaned over and said to him, “She’s very pretty, but it looks like she’s afraid to get those nails dirty.” He laughed, “Of anybody I know Linda has no problem getting down and dirty, but she cleans up real ‘purdy!’”

Carefully Weigh What’s In There

Although the idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” came about in the journal, American Speech in 1944, the idea has been around for centuries. Heed these wise words written by François Rabelais in La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel, “But it’s wrong to be so superficial when you’re weighing men’s work in the balance. Wouldn’t you yourself say that the monk’s robes hardly determine who the monk is? Or that there are some wearing monks’ robes who, on the inside, couldn’t be less monkish? Or that there are people wearing Spanish capes who, when it comes to courage, couldn’t have less of the fearless Spanish in them? And that’s why you have to actually open a book and carefully weigh what’s written there.”1

You have to actually open a book and carefully weigh what’s written there… Relevant words an incredible five centuries later. God, I love words! Down and dirty, but real “purdy!”

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