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By Pam Burke 

View from the North 40: When perspective is foreshorted, get a ladder

 

Last updated 3/30/2022 at 11:18am



It happens on a weirdly frequent occasion that I write on a topic one week and the next week that topic becomes quite relevant to my everyday life. So it is that — in relation to last week’s column about everything in life being a matter of perspective — I am bewildered to announce this week that due to an alteration in perspective I now know what it’s like to live life as a short person.

It’s hard work being short. I didn’t expect that much challenge and, yet, here I am trying to rise to the occasion.

Oh, sure shortness seems like a superpower when these people ditch you easily in a crowd, or they find things on the lower shelf without having to stand on their head. But who among us hasn’t laughed as they hop about trying to reach stuff on the top shelf and swipe at the air, as if swinging their arms with all their little might will create enough momentum to stretch their limbs another 10 inches.

There they are, dreaming the impossible dream.

Don’t worry, I always offer to help before they start climbing the shelves in the grocery aisle.

Now I’m trying to put saddles on my ridiculously big horse, Moose. That’s an exercise in humility, even for a 5-foot-8-ish person.

Let’s look at the numbers. So I’m 68 inches tall and my eyes are at about 64 inches off the ground. Moose is 70 inches at the highest point of her back, which is at the front part of the saddle, and about 67 inches at the lowest point. If I tip my head back and stretch my spine a bit I can see the top of her back, unless I’m standing on lower ground, then a tippy-toe stance is required.

I have an assortment of western and English saddles from over the years. I was trying to decide what tack would fit her to start riding. I got five saddles and seven girths into the project before I found the magic combination.

It’s like walking into someone else’s closet and searching for something to wear to dinner.

Of course, the horse had never been saddled before so it wasn’t like I could get a little momentum rolling to help me fling the saddles up onto her mountainous self — or use some quick, clean-and-jerk Olympic weightlifter maneuver that would scare her for sure.

The horse was good about it all. She definitely had that half-patient, half-annoyed look of equine amusement on her face but stood pretty still for the new process.

Still, I didn’t want to scare her, so my saddle-lift technique was more like a biceps curl up to the chest then an overhead press — only it’s with a saddle so there’s flaps and stirrups and straps all tumbling down into my face, whacking me on the head. Then I had to stuffle up next to the horse, saddle high over my head (except for the stuff dangling in my face), and finally lower the 30-pound bulk in a controlled flop onto her back.

After all the decades gone by, my brain still clearly remembers having to do such things when I was saddling horses as a child, but my body has no muscle memory of the activity, zero. Nor does it currently have the fitness. None. At all. So awkward.

And, no, I don’t know how I’m going to lift my left foot to waist height and hold myself steady while I slide my toes into the stirrup, then hoist the bulk of myself off the ground in a motion that will also allow me to swing my right foot over the high back of the saddle which is, roughly, 76 inches off the ground.

That’s 6 feet, 4 inches off the ground in case you don’t want to do the math.

The next morning I told my colleague — who is short by any standard in the Western world — about the experience and I gave him a fist thump over my heart gesture and said, “Solidarity, man. I finally know what it’s like to be a short person, like, a really short person.”

He listened to my tale with a half-patient, half-annoyed look of sympathy and assured me that after a while I won’t even think of all the short-person workarounds needed to function like a normal person.

I was so inspired by his heroic tales of climbing onto cupboards that when I got home I foisted the tack onto the Moose again, scrambled up on the wheel well of the horse trailer and successfully stood even taller than the horse’s head, which is actually up there in the giraffes’ nosebleed section.

The Moose, never having seen a living thing taller than herself before, flung herself a few steps sideways and rolled her eyes at me.

I just gave her a half-patient,

half-annoyed look of triumph and said, “Not so funny, now, is it.”

——

Don’t worry about my colleague, he is too smart to take this personally. In fact, measured vertically, he is roughly twice as smart per inch as I am at http://www.facebook.com/viewfromthenorth40 .

 

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