Your left or my left

Years ago, I was told by an arborist that tree branches grow to the north. I rarely need this information, but I do double-check his proclamation occasionally. It is filed in my mind next to tidbits like “the human head weighs 8 pounds” and “you can’t lick your own elbow.”

The real head scratcher for me is discerning east and west. Nine times out of 10, I will get those confused even on a sunny day.

My home county is made up of square miles all beautifully laid out like a homemade quilt. If you don’t know where you are but you know the blacktop is north of you, just head that way and you’ll get to it eventually.

My dad is a master of directions. He can also tell when a different vehicle has driven through his yard or if someone has taken the lawn mower for a joyride. Let’s just say he has an eye for details. He is also an avid rodeo fan so, years ago, my family would attend the Tri-Rivers Rodeo in Salina, Kansas. The Tri-Rivers arena was set on an angle and every time we went there would be a discussion about what direction we were facing, what direction the arena ran, and what direction did we decide it was last year. I never added much to the conversation because of the east-west conundrum, but when it involved north or south I would speak up.

My lack of east-west understanding was especially obvious when I would help move vehicles to pastures or fields. I was fine until Dad said, “Turn west at the fence post with the boot on it.” If he was in a good mood, I would ask, “Do I turn left or right?” This question would usually change his mood, causing him to sigh and shake his head. The discussion would usually end with me asking if he meant “his left” or “my left” because he was facing me while he was talking. Giving me directions always took 15 minutes longer than he thought it should, no matter his mood.

Before I was old enough to go to school, I rode along to do chores. In our regular cab pickup this meant I was in the middle where the gearshift lined up perfectly with my kneecap and I wasn’t tall enough for the rearview mirror to keep the sun out of my eyes. Between the pickup’s heater and the morning sun, my parents could have a quiet morning doing chores if they didn’t count my snoring. I would be bundled up, chattering away about seeing the cows and singing along to the “Cracker Barrel Time” theme song on KFDI-AM. I’d blink for too long and the next thing I knew we were turning in to the driveway, all done with chores for the morning.

I was along for the ride quite a bit and while I did learn some things along the way, I still hesitate half a second before saying “east” or “west” when giving directions. It might be closer to two seconds, but if you don’t worry about it I won’t either. I get where I need to be and if I take a couple of extra turns because “your left” was in fact “my left” then so be it.

Jennifer Theurer can be reached at 620-227-1858 or [email protected].