An Unfortunate or Fortunate Mistake

At 3:46 am i was feeling pretty proud of myself for being 14 minutes ahead of schedule to open the store after only 45 minutes of sleep. I figured i would definitely turn off all the alarms and botch my morning waking up moments before i was supposed to be there but here we were at 3:46 am with all the chickens fed and watered, the dogs pottied and in their crates, and i was headed to the car with all of my things in hand, and an umbrella. I bid the dogs farewell, grabbed up all my stuff, and closed the door behind me. I stood on the porch and searched for the familiar shape of the key fob….the key fob…….i tried again, unsure why my fingers hadn’t already closed around it…..the key fob….. at this point a thought popped into my head. “Had i actually grabbed the keys?” Was there any moment where i could remember reaching up and pulling them off the hook? I didn’t think so…. i stood there on the porch for a moment as the reality of this possible narrative set in. A thought echoed in my brain, “What did you do?” I guess its important to explain a few things for context here. The sellers put the door knob on backwards, so you turn it the opposite of all other doors in the world to lock and the opposite of all other doors in the world to unlock. Well this was hard to remember at first but once i got it my brain just switched what i knew to be true for opposite information, so now it was affecting my ability to lock and unlock all other doors outside of my property…at work, at friends’ houses. What i thought would lock the door would actually leave it unlocked and vice versa. So my solution was to revert back to my original understanding of lock orientation and as for my house situation, i locked the door with the little button in the middle of the knob and i unlocked the door by giving no thought whatsoever to direction of key turn and just jiggling it this way and that until one side had give and turning in that direction. Problem solved. I would like all those already raising flags about how quickly this operation is going to go south to note that i lived here 3 years before this became a problem. I am usually very careful to check that i have the keys in hand before i head out, but this particular morning i had the umbrella with me, because it was raining. My brain mistook the feeling of the umbrella loop in my hand as confirmation that i had the clip the keys were on, and out the door i went. I took the lantern and put it directly on the operation at hand: operation find out where keys actually are. As i suspected, they were likely hanging on the hook in the house. They were not with me, in my lunch box, in my purse, or hanging on the chicken pen or dog run fence as i sometimes accidentally left them there during evening chores. They were definitely not out here so they had to be in there. I was thankful the curtains were drawn. It would have added insult to injury if i locked myself out of the house and could then see the keys through the window.

I stood on the porch at 3:50 am in the dark in the rain and i made an assessment. I was no longer 14 minutes ahead of schedule. My brain began working out the options. Maybe the door wasn’t really locked? Scratch that, it was. Maybe the car wasn’t really locked? Scratch that too, it was. My trunk icon on the keyfob was broken so that if you pushed the button to unlock the doors the trunk was still locked. I thought somehow that maybe today was opposite day and it wouldn’t have locked when i pushed the lock button. Nope, the trunk was locked. The trunk, the car, the sheds, and the house were all locked up tight. I thought…maybe the well house? That was locked too. So, the structures accessible to me at this moment were the house porch, the shed porch, and the chicken coop. Assessing the situation, i made a mental list about the pros and cons of each location and filed that away to revisit when it was time to do that. At the moment i had two things to do: 1. Notify work of the predicament…they would need to know that i wouldn’t be arriving as scheduled 2. Figure out some way to get the dogs out of the house before 5 pm. They would need water and bathroom breaks eventually, but for now the a/c was on, the window unit was working, they were fine, and we had some hours to work with. I noticed pretty quickly that the lantern was much better at attracting insects than the porch light. I was going about this all wrong trying to collect junebugs with the porch light. I made a mental note that from now on i should try it with the lantern. There were thousands and thousands of insects attracted to my only light source in the dark, the lantern. They were in my hair, on my face, crawling on my clothes, writhing across the porch in this weird carpet of beetles, moths, and caterpillars. The real surprise was how attracted to the light the caterpillars were. I had to continuously kill them because they were just finding the tomato plant and helping themselves. I put the lantern on one edge of the porch and moved myself and my things to the other side to get some relief from the insects. I stood on the porch and googled locksmiths for an hour. Nobody serviced my zip code, as it was not considered a city. It was a small town in the middle of nowhere and no locksmith serviced the area. So i turned to the tactic of trying to pay someone in a neighboring city a lot of money to come out…well the nearest city was still not a huge city and nobody there worked on weekends. San Antonio and Boerne had 24/7 locksmith services but they stated i was too far from their jurisdiction for them to come. So i turned to two companies, one in Kerrville and one in Boerne where the reviews stated that they had called on a weekend and the dude called back and came out even though it says he works monday through friday. I left messages pleading my case and promising to pay gas money and tip well and really make it worth their while financially if they would come out and open my house door. I promised chicken eggs as well if they wanted fresh eggs. You never know out here who has their own chickens. Some people love the eggs, some people have their own. Anyways, again, it was 4 in the morning. These two professionals were probably asleep and did not call back yet. So i stood on the porch surrounded by pitch darkness covered in bugs with nothing to do but wait for time to pass. Sun up was a good 2.5 hours away at least. It would be a long night. It was about this time that i noticed some toads and an armadillo poking around the porch, looking for bugs. The rain picked up and the coyotes began howling. I decided for multiple reasons, and i will detail them shortly, that my best option for riding out the rest of the weather and darkness may be in the chicken pen. But i have to pause here because my thoughts were interrupted by a series of epiphanies. First, i realized that i had made a key ring of spare keys when i left the state for a family occasion and had to get someone to watch the property for me. Where was it? Well, i would have put it somewhere not in the house, and the only place i could think of that was not in the house where i would store something was the car. I seemed to have a memory of dropping them in the center console of the car. Of course, i was looking for a residential locksmith when i should be looking for a mobile auto locksmith to let me in the car so i could use the spare keys to let myself into the house. I did this for about twenty minutes with similar luck to my first google search when i had another epiphany. I had dropped the keys in the center console…in order to drive them to my friend Cindy’s house. At this point i vaguely had a memory of handing the keys to Cindy and asking her to hold onto them in case of emergencies. It seemed like this was just such an emergency one might need her to have those for. New plan! Better plan! Oh hallelujah! Cindy would be much easier to convince to come to the property than a locksmith on a Saturday in the country. I just had to wait for her to wake up. We had been at Friday group together the night before and i knew she stayed way later than i did because i had to work the following morning and then a bunch of them had planned to go to someone else’s afterwards and i knew she was amongst the people that said they’d be down to go, so, it was likely that she would sleep in this morning after a late night with friends and no job to go to on a Saturday. It would be a while. I texted her a short message about my predicament and asked if she knew where the keys on the black wrist band scrunchy thing were and if she did could she bring them here. Then i returned to what to do in this moment about my current predicament, not the one that i’d be facing once the sun came up. I had my phone charger in my purse and so i had gone with the umbrella to the side of the house to plug the phone into the outlet on the side of the house under the umbrella to charge the battery so i could google and text. However, now i was hearing the coyotes louder in the dark and the rain and wind were picking up. I felt exposed and vulnerable in my night blindness and i wanted to be somewhere a bit more defensible. I had no real weapon with me…just a home depot bucket, a lantern, a purse, a lunchbox, and an umbrella. I could hear the dogs inside whimpering and whining because they could hear me and they wanted to be where i was and didnt know why, if i wasnt going to work, i wouldnt come back in and let them out of the crates. I felt a bit lonely being cut off from them and i decided that a familiar face right now wouldn’t be the worst thing. I probably needed to go hang out with the chickens. They would be a comfort in the darkness, something i recognized in this wholly new situation i’d created for myself. Their chicken pen had a roof. I could get out of the rain. More importantly, the wall panels of the pen were solid metal with welded metal bars. Whatever i put in there would be safe from raccoons and coyotes. So i gathered all my stuff and placed it on top of the chicken coop roof under an angled umbrella to keep the rain from coming in sideways onto it. I took the bucket from the porch that i had been using to collect rain water and turned it upside down to use as a stool in the chicken pen. I used the umbrella and the lantern to make a trek to where i had the rosemary growing in the yard. Without my keys i didn’t have my box cutter. So i just tore some rosemary leaves off with my fingers. I put the wad of rosemary leaves in my bra cup and returned to the chicken pen. I closed myself in the pen and opened the door to the chicken coop. I woke the chickens up and placed a lantern on the ground in their pen. Moths and beetles flocked to it which the chickens stalked and ate. I enjoyed watching them run around the lantern after bugs and i enjoyed not being covered in insects because the chickens took care of them. I sat on the bucket and fished the rosemary leaves from my bra where i took a pinch at a time and rubbed my face, neck, arms, chest, legs, and lower back with broken pulverized rosemary leaves i had been rubbing and squishing and tearing until they smelled fragrant and released their oils. The chicken coop was full of mosquitos and i could hear them buzzing around me the whole time but i didn’t get one single mosquito bite for hours. Mosquitos HATE the smell of rosemary oil. However, for anyone who doesn’t know, the itchy bump that results when you get bit by a mosquito is basically a histamine reaction to mosquito saliva. Directly after getting bit, scratch it open a tad with yoyr fingernail and apply straight white vinegar. Drip it in there with a cotton ball or a paper towel and there will be no itch. The vinegar stops the reaction, but it has to be done immediately after the bite. Two minutes later is too late. Anyways, i left all my stuff under the umbrella on the chicken coop roof in the covered pen. I had my cell phone, my lantern, a bra full of rosemary, and i was sitting on the bucket when the wind got cold and started blowing the rain sideways. I was getting wet and my jacket was in the car. I was really cold. It was then that i had the idea to get in the chicken coop. It was the only place with four walls and a roof that i had access to. It would be dry in there, and i knew from the winters on the homestead that chickens were very good at generating body heat. If i got us all in the coop then they would keep me warm. So i put the bucket in the chicken coop, put the lantern in the middle of the floor in the coop, sat on the bucket, and pulled the larger door closed. The little door was still open. It had to be. The cover was locked in the house. But, the chickens generated enough heat that it was much warmer in the coop, little door open or not.

The chickens ate all the bugs that were attracted to the lantern. Daisy did as well but she was also happy to forfeit the activity when i asked her to sit on my lap and keep me warm. She hunkered down on my knees and i tucked my hands under her wings pretty much in her armpits and it was so hot there i thought they might burn. Daisy kept me warm, the chickens had a grand time chasing bugs. It was warm and dry and i finally had no complaints. For a couple hours we hung out and listened to mice chattering outside in the fields and owls as well as armadillos. We heard the coyotes two more times but at a greater distance. I felt grateful the chickens were so comfortable with my presence and would share their coop with me. I felt grateful to be warm and dry. The only alarming part was the high pitched whine of constant mosquitos which i would only later realize never bit me.

There were two other considerations behind my decision to climb into the chicken coop. 1. I wasn’t sure if the batteries in the lantern would last until sunrise arrived. I wanted to be somewhere enclosed when the light went. 2. I was trying not to use all the battery on my phone so i wouldnt have to charge it again, which i wouldnt need to do if busy petting a chicken.

Dawn eventually came. Cindy did not answer. I decided i would wait until 8 am before trying to figure out the next step of communication, whether that was hitching a ride to her house or texting her again, or walking to Ren’s house in town and seeing if she would drive me over to Cindy’s town. I decided that i would try to take a nap while waiting for Cindy to wake up. I took my things to the shed porch which was larger than the house porch. I placed them on the porch in front of the door and angled the umbrella so it was shielding against the mist that was falling. Then i laid down underneath the umbrella and tried to sleep. I quickly realized this was not a plan as the umbrella had blue and purple polka dots on it which the bees very enthusiastically tried to pollinate, became frustrated, and then went after me.

I checked the weather report and realized we were supposed to get an epic lightening storm that was supposed to last from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm. I needed to start coming up with a plan for where i was going to be by 10 am, to ensure i wasn’t outside at a high elevation (my property) in the middle of a lightening storm. I texted Julie, a neighbor whose family had been one of the oldest founding families of the town, a woman who knew everybody and everything in the area. I told her about my predicament and asked her if any of the nearby neighbors would be willing to let me in around 10 am to get out of the weather for a couple hours. You see the houses are set twenty acres from the road and fence gate a lot so you cant just go knock on the door, you have to call. Julie offered her house but by that time it was past 8 am and i had called Cindy who sleepily answered and agreed to come bring me the spare key. I was beyond thrilled that she had it in her possession, i didnt dream that memory, and i did not in fact after all need a locksmith (who wasnt coming anyway…any of them)! As a last ditch option i had breaking a window or ripping the window unit out (which would probably take the window sill, the window framing, and the glass part of the window after all the screws, plaster, and glue had done their jobs) on the table in order to get the dogs water and access to grass before Monday. Then i would of course need to make a trip to home depot and do some repair work before being able to leave the property to go to work the following day. I left this as the least desirable last-ditch option. I found it ironic that a remodeled shed had a metal door which was actually pretty impenetrable.

Well Cindy drove over to my town to rescue me and when she rolled the window down she looked so dejected that i thought she’d discovered she didnt have the keys after all and had just driven in person to tell me. This wasn’t the case. Cindy had left the keys on her kitchen table and only now realized it and that’s what the long face was about. She kept apologizing profusely but i was absolutely unbothered by this detail. The keys were in fact in a place where we knew where they were and Cindy had access to her kitchen table, so the day was still saved. We were going to have access to the dogs and get them out of there and not have to break the house to do it. I was happy as a clam. I went with her to retrieve the keys this time because i had been peeing in a bucket and then emptying it in the grass with the kind of drip dry policy. There was no toilet paper outside the house or car. I had to pee again and its not as private an act once the sun comes up. Neighbors driving down the access road would have a view so i opted to go with for access to a real bathroom with soap. I should mention i skipped a part here. When i realized Cindy was coming and i might still get to go to work i called the boss and asked if she would like me to come in once the house was unlocked. She said yes that would be helpful. So i washed all the brown/green rosemary oil off my arms and neck, washed the chicken poop off my pants, and washed my hands in the spigot on the side of the well house. My hair was a mess but that would have to be overlooked given the circumstances.

Cindy retrieved the keys and we left for the property a second time. When i got out of that car and unlocked the door to my house it was like angels sang. The key went in like a knife through hot butter and what was squarely off limits to me was suddenly accessible again. I grabbed my keys, gave Cindy the spare keys again, and thanked her profusely! I then tucked my shirt in, put my stuff in my car, and drove to work. They were pretty chaotic there because i had called in but we all kept our nose to the grindstone and righted the ship. I apologized to my coworkers but once they realized the reason i hadn’t made it they were laughing a lot and kept telling me “no worries. After all that i would have called in and not come. Im amazed you’re here and not in the fetal position at home.”

There was a quiet young man at work who was always kind to me and for once our breaks coincided and he asked me how my day was, so i told him the story about my morning and even though he was wearing a mask i could see that he was finding the story humorous because the lines were creasing hard around his eyes so i knew he was grinning. He asked me if the chickens were at least good company. I told him they were. Our interactions are usually very short as we have mere seconds in passing and he does a drive by encouraging word “you can do it” or “i believe in you” or “just do your best” and i say thank you as he’s already 8 feet past me. I wish i could return the favor but my brain doesn’t work at that speed. I have to have time with someone to formulate words and think and conversate. So it was nice to be able to make him smile and give him a laugh after all the times he’s given me a word of encouragement.

My boss was very amused at the idea of me sitting inside the chicken coop with the chickens. Because i had arrived 5 and a half hours late i had to stay 5 and a half hours late. So, though my morning started at around 4 am, trying to leave the house, my shift didnt end until 6 pm when the team leader told me i was a trooper and asked if i wanted to leave 30 minutes early and i took her up on it, glad to be done with the day and ready to go home and sit down and process. It had been an interesting day. My hair was down when i went to work…an unfortunate thing that i didnt feel i had time to fix, 5.5 hours late for work as i was. So all day as i went in and out of the door to deliver groceries to the cars that giant metal device over the door blasted me with air each time. Below is an image of what my hair normally looks like at work.

Now, instead of this….imagine if albert einstein had brown hair and more feminine facial features. I tried so hard to wet it in the bathroom and smooth it down but these pieces of hair in the constant abuse from that device, the rain, and the extreme humidity, just wanted to stick straight out horizontally in a wholly unforgiving manner. Without a hair tie, there was nothing i could do but walk around like that for the rest of the day. Maybe it added to the flavor of the story, to have someone telling it with a lion’s mane of tangled frizziness about the head.

Everyone at work had asked me why i hadn’t cried. To me, crying was what you did when you had no more courses of action to take. There were still courses of action to be taken, so i was fully in “do” mode, not “process” mode. I was still busy fixing the situation i had created and trying to handle my responsibilities as the provider for animals and an employee. Besides, threat of nuclear war, probability of a recession, the conflict in Ukraine, the predicament of non-white students trapped in Ukraine with no country willing to take them as refugees…those were things to cry about. Locking oneself out of the house just didnt seem like something to cry about…given the current events at hand. My coworkers said, “i would have thought God was punishing me for something bad i did.” I shook my head, “No, i dont feel like im being punished. If i did that, if it happened, then it was supposed to happen. I was either supposed to learn a profound lesson from it or i was never supposed to be where i would have been at the time that i would have been there had i not locked myself out of the house.”

I drove home, went about the evening chores, and forbade myself to ever lock the door any way other than with the key from now on. As i was sitting in my rocking chair i got a text. The police in the nearest city had just released an official report on the incident that happened earlier in my town. Apparently one of the one engine planes didnt quite make it to the airport on the side of the highway i take to and from work every day. Right about the time that i would have been passing the gravel pit if i was leaving work on time that day a small plane had made an emergency landing down highway 27 next to the gravel pit. The whole incident had to be investigated by professionals to determine the cause of the malfunction that made an emergency landing necessary and the highway was shut down in both directions for hours. Had i not been hit by the plane itself i would have been stuck on the highway in a disgruntled crowd of people that wanted to be let through, in a state where everyone had a license to carry…i mean i’ve loaded groceries into peoples trucks on top of their rifle before and the only question i have each time is “is the safety on?” So, in my mind, i was never supposed to be on that highway at that time of day and with the way my plans for the day were, i was gonna be. God made a way for me never to be on that highway when that plane landed and it may have been created through a moment of my own stupidity, but it is stupidity i am grateful for, as i would much rather hang out with chickens in the rain than paramedics, investigators, policemen, and pilots in an emergency situation.

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