It has been quite some time now since I last had any sort of regular chores to perform. I suppose taking the dog out could count for that but it certainly doesn’t add up to much. Taking care of a horse, on the other hand, does seem to qualify. At least it reminds me a great deal more of those opportunities I embraced so enthusiastically when I was growing up on our row crop and dairy farm in southwestern Kentucky.
I think of those years, days, months and moments while I run water for the horse, clean out the pen, dump a small bucket of feed into his trough. While slipping the halter over his nose and buckling the head strap into place, I remember the Jersey herd and the morning and evening duties that came with it. Regardless of weather, regardless of season, regardless of preferences, it was an established and unalterable given; those things had to be done.
Except for being hired to milk Jack Harrison’s Jerseys the last year-and-a-half of my high school career, I had nothing that seemed to qualify as chores after we sold the farm when I was thirteen. I’m too lazy to go check out the etymology of the word "chore" at this particular moment. I know without looking that it has come to mean something that is unrewarding, boring, monotonous, etc. Perhaps at some point, it meant something quite different, duty married to necessity that translated into the means of continuing life as known or something like that.
I think of chores now as a sort of comfortable reminder that life continues, that I am not yet helpless, that I contribute and have meaning.
I think of this as I dump the latest bucket of horse manure onto the large and growing pile of months of barely processed pasture. I think of it as the horse finishes his morning feed and I walk beside the pasture fence, frozen fescue crumpling and crunching beneath my boots. I think of it as I reach the end of the driveway, bend over and pick up the newspaper in its orange plastic, lying in the frost and gravel. Returning to the pen, I snap the rope onto the halter and lead Tango across the drive to the east pasture. Released, he snorts and spins, kicking at the cold air and taking off across the field.
I close the gate, pick up the paper, walk past the solar charger and flip on the fence. My breath steams and curls into the slight breeze and I head toward the house, its warmth and Randa’s first cup of coffee of the day. These are not chores this morning; these are life’s constant and reassuring rituals.