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Irons in the fire: A look in the mirror

Paul Marchant for Progressive Forage Published on 01 March 2021

I brought the old pickup to a Smart Chick Olena sliding stop in front of the house. Any reiner who knows anything would have been impressed – had my mount been a blue roan instead of a beat-up old blue Chevy. To nobody’s surprise, I was running late again.

I’d been fixing fence and setting up pens for heifers in a feeble attempt to prepare for a calving season that was staring me down and breathing down my neck like a Tolkien dragon.

I leapt up the steps (well, two of them, anyway) to the back of the house, kicked off my mudders and made a mad dash to the shower. It was quarter after 6 o’clock, and I had a meeting in town at 7 o’clock. Math isn’t my strong suit, but I knew it’d take me at least 15 minutes to clean up and head back out the door. Add another 40 minutes to drive to town and get to the other side, and I was already at least 10 minutes late.

I took a quick shower and had just about decided to forgo shaving when I glanced in the mirror. There was no need to extend the gaze past the first few seconds. The damage was already done. The realization hit me like the first splash of ice-cold water from the shower just a few minutes earlier.

I don’t know how I’d missed it before. I pass a mirror at least a couple times every day. But there it was: harsh reality, glaring at me like Mr. Jewkes used to when he caught me screwing around in 12th grade English class. Only this time there was no consolation and no reprieve. No cute girl across the aisle to share a hidden laugh with as I rolled my eyes. No back-of-the room jocks who always had my back. Nope. My only companion was the cold, hard, unlying truth. I wasn’t as good-looking as I thought I was. Even after I took a few extra minutes to shave, the improvement was negligible.

Well now, this wasn’t good. Now, not only was I going to be late – again – to my meeting, but it wouldn’t even be fashionably late. It would be more like Quasimodo-late. But I didn’t figure there was much I could do about it now. I figured I’d just try to ignore it. Maybe it wouldn’t be quite so noticeable.

I eventually made it to my meeting, more than a couple minutes late. Much to my relief, as far as I noticed, nobody shrieked and turned away in horror as I entered the room. Of course, there were no ladies swooning and fainting from a polar-opposite reaction to my appearance, either, but I can’t say as I ever recall that happening anyway. Still, I had to wonder why everyone I knew had declined to inform me of my own decline in comeliness.

Then it struck me. Perhaps my current state of attractiveness, or lack thereof, had ever been so. Maybe I never was quite as dashing as I’d imagined myself to be. Could this be true? If so, this maybe wasn’t all bad news. It may be possible I’ve gotten along in life with a touch of wit and charm, sprinkled in with some half-decent intellect and a generous dose of empathy and compassion. I was having a Grinch-like awakening. Maybe what I once thought was important wasn’t important at all. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the people who are actually my truest friends have never seemed to care one whit about my looks or my money or my trucks or my house. The only person who plays an important role in my life and gave any thought to the superficialities of my life was the ugly dude who was squinting at my image through the misty mirror in the bathroom. And I figured, with a little counseling, he’d eventually come around.

Now, when I pass by a mirror, I try to see a different image. I try to look past the guy who’s lost a step or two, whose fences need fixed and whose house needs painted. I look for the image that, somehow, the kind, selfless, caring and truly good people in my life see. It’s sometimes hard to see and even harder to believe, but if you look from just the right angle, you can see it. end mark

Paul Marchant is a cowboy and part-time freelance writer based in southern Idaho. Follow him on Twitter or email Paul Marchant.

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