Writers don’t always love their words


Oh, for heaven’s sake: I was on my way to a writer’s conference to learn how to be a wordsmith.

I should not be in public when I’m tired and overworked. I knew I was verging on overload, but it did not come out until I was in the car with three other fellow writers.

We picked up a writer on the way. She was very tall and very thin, probably 6-2, 98 pounds. With a little makeup and a new haircut, she could be beautiful.

I decided to make small talk.

I should’ve stopped there.

I didn’t.

I asked her how big her farm was.

She said 259 acres, and she owned 29 alpacas.

I knew what it took for Al to keep up our few acres on the Blanco, so I said to her, “Do you work your ranch all by yourself? You look too weak to do all that.”

She bolted out of her skin.

“I’ve never been called weak.”

I quickly said, “Maybe, I meant to say frail.”

“My friends know that I’m not weak. Give me your hand.” She grabbed my hand and squeezed it until it hurt and turned blue.

I pulled it away and shook it to get the blood circulating again.

“I believe you. You are strong.”

She was probably thinking, “This little fatty is calling me weak; I could beat her at arm wrestling.”

I wasn’t going to give her my hand again, but I was digging the hole deeper.

Why didn’t I shut up? Remember, I’m tired and overworked, and I shouldn’t be in public.

I asked, “Does anyone help you with the work?”

She was not ready to give it up.

She said, “No. I had some big poles in my barn and they were in my way. I got a rope and threw it over the rafter, and I pulled them up one by one, and I moved all those poles by myself. I can’t believe you think I’m weak. The only thing I don’t do is tune my tractor once a year, but I do everything else.”

“That’s amazing, I know that Al tries to do everything himself, too. He can’t keep up with everything, and we don’t have alpacas.”

The four writers went to the all-day meeting. Afterwards, we jumped back into the car, all except for Jesus. We left him in Montrose, Colo.

That was another mistake.

We made our six-hour trip home.

My comments really disturbed her. She must take great pride in doing all that work herself. Halfway home, we stopped the car, and everyone went into the store except for the two of us.

She got out of the car and walked around.

She said, “I have to work the kinks out in my long legs, I’m not use to sitting this long.”

“I understand.”

She hit me again. “I can’t believe you said I was weak.”

“Well, it was a compliment.”

Listen to what I said next.

“You don’t look like an old ranch woman, I see you as a genteel lady. You don’t look like a raw bone cow. I thought that was a farmer’s term of endearment.” Then I said, “Maybe it is your soft voice and baby talk. Your voice is so soft.”

She bolted back, “I taught school for 30 years, they didn’t want to hire me because I talked so soft, but I had no problem with disciplining the children. They rather liked that I talked soft.”

“That’s nice.”

At our family’s Sunday night dinner, I was rehashing the trip.

My daughter said, “Sounds like you stepped in it and spent the whole trip scraping your foot in the grass to get it off. You should’ve just changed shoes.”

My Sweet Al said, “You should have said …”

I held up my hand and said, “No, Al, I think I said enough.”

My daughter warns people, “Don’t ask her opinion after 9 p.m. She knows when she is tired and the gate latch is loose, she will tell you what she is really thinking. Her friends know to leave at 9 o’clock.”

Final brushstroke: So here’s my warning: Don’t mess with me when I’m tired and overworked. A writer doesn’t always love her own words, but she’s going to say them anyway, and then probably write about it.

Artist’s quote

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” — Frank Outlaw.


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This story was posted on July 18, 2013.