By Bill Hudgins
It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and my friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe had just parked his vintage Corn Binder for a week at home when Mrs. Rufus came bustling out of the house, carrying a suitcase.
"I've got to go to my sister's," she called to Rufus, who was relieved to hear he wasn't being ditched again. "Her house is getting a makeover on that new TV show 'Clutter Decontam' – you know the one sponsored by Clorox bleach and the EPA? Anyway, she needs moral support.
"And you need to get the house ready for Thanksgiving, because it's your family coming over. I'll be back Thursday morning. Your list is on the kitchen counter. Bye!"
Her car was already in the street before Rufus could choke out,
Huh?" When he finally processed what Mrs. R had said, he thought,
What could be so hard? She never seems that busy."
He began to have doubts when he saw her list. His orders started at the street and went straight through the house and into the backyard. What really set him back was that he also had to fix Thanksgiving dinner – including the turkey. The recipes looked like chemistry instructions. He'd seen engine oil analyses less complicated.
Sunday dawned fair and dry, so he tackled the yard work first. Food had to be hot, he figured, so Thursday morning would be time enough to start on that.
He got a 100-foot extension cord and plugged in the TV so he could watch football while raking, pruning and trimming. It had been a long time since he'd done a lot of this kind of thing; Mrs. R usually handled it while he was on the road. And he needed a couple of Advil the next morning to get motivated to do housework.
Over the next couple of days, Rufus went through more Advil as he checked things off his wife's list. Vacuuming, dusting, washing, shining, sweeping, fixing a drippy faucet and a slow-running drain.
The phone kept ringing with calls from cemetery lot salesmen and political pollsters, plus friends of Mrs. R who left lengthy messages. Several of his regular brokers called offering him loads, and they seemed confused by having to talk to him instead of his wife.
By Wednesday afternoon, he had the house under control and decided to look over the instructions for the feast. That was when he noticed the part about letting the turkey thaw in the fridge starting on Monday.
In a panic, Rufus called the Gobble-All Turkey Trotline. "I've got a 24-pound frozen turkey I gotta thaw by tomorrow morning! What do I do?"
"Seal it up in a waterproof bag and put it in cold water, and change the water every half-hour to keep it cold. It should be thawed in about 12 hours," the operator said, sounding stressed.
Fortunately, the Sideswipes have a deep, cold well, so Rufus tied the bird up in several big trash bags and put it in a tub outside, with a hose running a constant stream of water. He secured an old Kenworth grill on top of the tub to keep out critters, and got cooking.
Though exhausted, Rufus was nevertheless ready when his family started arriving the next morning. When his wife arrived, she gaped at the preparations and gave Rufus a big kiss.
As he carved the turkey, Rufus realized Mrs. R was someone to be very thankful for.
She had a regular job, plus she doubled as his bookkeeper, load-finder and dispatcher. She took care of the house, did the shopping and cooking, and attempted to keep his sleeper reasonably clean and comfortable. With him gone most of the time, she had added basic plumbing, electrical and carpentry skills to her resume.
When something broke that she couldn't fix, she had to find the best person to fix it, argue about the price, oversee the work and pay the bills. She volunteered at church, looked in on the elderly couple a few mailboxes down the road. And when he came home, she welcomed him with open arms.
"And," reflected Rufus, "she still looks darn fine! Lord, I am thankful."
Until next time, be safe, make money and get home often. And count your blessings. LL