Rural Life Lesson #246:Gates

There’s an old joke (It’s possible it’s a riddle or a something else.). It goes something like this:

Three guys are riding along in a pickup truck. How do you know who is the wisest ranch hand?

The one in the middle. Because he doesn’t have to drive and he doesn’t have to jump in and out to open the gates.

I don’t actually live on a ranch, but I have spent enough time around horse farms and barns to be able to say, with great certainty, that good fences make good horses. We have had a failure of a couple of our fences here at our place and so our horses currently have the run of the place including right up to the gate to exit the property. Aside from the fact that they get into all kinds of things that they shouldn’t (that used to be safely on the other side of a fence and THANK GOD THEY DON’T HAVE HANDS), they can sometimes make it hard to leave or enter without risking an escape attempt. They aren’t especially trying to leave. It’s just that the grass is greener where you haven’t eaten it yet and, sometimes, given an opportunity in the form of an open gate, they will walk through it looking for greener pastures, or whatever beckons on the other side.

One of my chief symptoms of my ADD is that I am particularly challenged by transitions. I am strongly bound by Newton’s Laws of Inertia. What I mean is that first, it’s hard for me to get started on a task or project. (an object at rest, no?)

Then, once I get going it’s often hard for me to stop or leave off. (an object in motion, see?)

It’s also really hard for me to smoothly switch directions or roles quickly. I require an adjustment period to get my mind’s compass reoriented. (This is still in the category of ‘an object in motion’, but has more to do with the part about being ‘acted upon by another force’, I think. You can imagine my brain as a large truck. Slow to start off, takes a longer distance to stop, and needs a large turning radius.)

The things I’ve learned with the horses and their gates and with my own gateways and transitions are these:

1. Recognise that they are a barrier that you are going to have to deal with. Understanding that it is an issue for you goes a long way toward mitigating the effects of the problem. In school, I learned that I needed to arrive at my classes at least 15 minutes early in order to have time to get mentally prepared to think about the class and the topic at hand. If I did not have that time, the first few minutes of class were not very useful because my mind will take the time it needs regardless. It’s just better to give it the time beforehand. With regard to the gates here on the property, remembering to leave a couple (or a few) minutes early so that we can negotiate our exit strategically is a sound plan and one that keeps us from freaking out from having to hurry and having things go wrong (as they inevitably will) doesn’t ruin our plans nearly as often.

2. Be prepared for trickery. Often we are able to just drive down to the gate, open it, and leave with very little hassle. Sometimes, the horses are less helpful and we need to do something to get them to back off from the gate. Usually this is just a little bit of hay or grain offered a fair distance away from the gate so that they are busy for a few minutes while we make our getaway.  Do what you need to do to make things easier for yourself. Set timers a few minutes before you need to end a task so it doesn’t come as as much of a shock. Make sure other people know that they should  give you a heads up and or a count down a few minutes early. My son knows that if he comes up and interrupts me to get me to do something, he will be met with resistance. But if he says, can we do such-and-such at x time? he will get a much better response. (Unfortunately we’ve had to figure this out through trial and error. Learn from me, people!)

3. Try not to do it by yourself. It’s infinitely harder to get through the gate smoothly by yourself. It’s a lot of moving parts and variables to works by yourself. It can lead to a lot more frustration and running around. The best case scenario is to have systems in place that eliminate much of the stress of the transition. Ideally, with physical gates, you have two gates with enough room to park between them so that you can pull in, shut the gate behind you, then open the gate in front of you to allow your egress without much bother. More ideally, you have people working those gates for you so you don’t have to clamber in and out and around to complete all of the steps.

Less ideally, you only have one gate, but you have a person or two to open and close it for you so that it’s smoother, easier, and there’s less chance of things going awry. The truth is that sometimes things are just going to fall into the worst case scenario and all the systems in the world can’t help that. Then you need a plan. What to do if the horses aren’t occupied elsewhere. Which way to open the gate for best outcome. (Up (for us, here), if you’re interested.) How to have timed your arrivals and/or departures to have help around.

For your mental maneuverings, the same applies. Try very hard to have systems with timers and calendars in place. Make sure people know to allow to time to get through the gate, to remind you of upcoming stops or starts.

In the worst case scenario, remember that with a little patience, and maybe a little trickery, you will, no doubt, get through to the other side.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Juliana Rowland
    May 20, 2013 @ 10:06:48

    I like the idea of arriving 15 minutes early. One of my big work challenges is back to back meetings and/or phone calls. It’s hard to mentally switch from one to another without a little prep time!


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