Stowaway dryer sheet brightens day – Empty Nest, by Curt Swarm


I needed Ginnie to help me string the electric chicken wire fence—her to hold the roll while I shoved the stakes in the ground. I figured it would be a good time for her and me to work together outdoors, on the farm, in the fresh air. I was right.
It was rather cold and windy the morning of our fence building, so we had to bundle up proper. I spied Ginnie stuffing facial tissue in her coat pocket to blow her nose on. I told her that farmers didn’t use tissue outdoors, they blew their noses on the ground. She told me that when she’s tried it in the past that she wound up getting it all over her, so she guessed she wouldn’t make a good farmer. I let her have her way.
When we were outdoors stringing wire mesh, and trying to figure out how the fence worked as we unfolded it, I kept smelling something quite fragrant in the air. Knowing it surely wasn’t the chickens, and not seeing any trees or flowers in bloom nearby, I deduced that it was the presence of Ginnie. What a pleasant feeling, to scent the fragrance of your wife while doing an otherwise, kinda-sorta, nasty job. It made the whole day pleasantly odoriferous. When I commented about her fragrance, Ginnie acted a little confused but accepted the compliment with a self-congratulatory grin.
After stringing the wire mesh, hooking up the solar energizer, and getting zapped a couple of times, I figured out that maybe I ought to use the included voltage meter. I’m more of a short-it-out-with-a-screwdriver-kind-of-guy. (There were explicit warnings against this in the instructions, which I read only after building the fence.) When I applied the voltage meter to the fence I was taken aback. The voltage fluctuated between 4,000 and 8,000 volts. Holy moly, guacamole! If that doesn’t keep the chickens in and the mink out, I don’t know what will.
All-in-all, I was pleased with the fence that Ginnie and I built. And I didn’t do any yelling or cussing (except when I got zapped). When we made a mistake, and there were a couple of those, I just accepted it as part of the experience and moved on. Ginnie and I were having too much fun working together to ruin it by a raised voice. I remember our wedding vows: “No yelling except if the teepee’s burning down.” When you’re pushing 70, you’re more able to discern what’s important in life and what isn’t. If an error costs you five extra minutes, or an hour, or a day, what’s the big deal in comparison to a loving relationship?
After a day of building chicken fence, I had my courage up. “Tomorrow,” I told Ginnie. “We’re building a pen for the bucket calf.”
“Do I get to bring tissue with me?” she asked.
Working outdoors for the better part of a day, in the sun and wind, and that heavenly fragrance, had our appetites worked up. I was starving. Ginnie went in the house to throw together a meatloaf, while I picked up the tools. The hardest part of any job, I’ve noticed over the years, is getting started and cleaning up. With Ginnie gone, however, I noticed that fragrance was still in the air. Odd.
I gathered up the last couple of eggs (11 hens, 11 eggs) from the hen house and went indoors, looking forward to a hot shower and hot food. The meatloaf was smelling mighty good and there was that fragrance again, all mixed in with the meatloaf. I took off my coat and long-sleeved shirt, and what fell out of the sleeve?—a dryer sheet!
Mercy sakes, alive! And I thought I had been in heaven all day.
Actually, I had.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm In Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or find him on Facebook. Curt’s stories are also read at 106.3 FM in Farmington.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: