Trading chores presents challenge and sense of accomplishment

Susan Manzke
Susan Manzke assembles a cat tower in her kitchen last fall.

I married a farmer in 1973. Along our journey together we divided most chores. The outside work was Bob’s (except when he needed an extra hand) and the inside jobs were mine. This meant Bob rarely cooked and I didn’t change the oil in the tractors.

Though Bob can get around the house, he’s too weak now to do any of his normal chores. This makes him feel helpless.

The other day I went to the shed to start our car. It had sat unused for all our extreme cold weather and this cold day it refused to start even though the weekend before Rebecca and Andy had got it going without any trouble.

Lucky for us, using the car wasn’t an emergency. Bob’s sister stopped by and hand-delivered a bill payment for us.

The car sat a second day. It was up to me to do something. “Where’s the battery charger?” I asked Bob.

“There’s one in the machine shed, but I couldn’t tell exactly where. Anyway, snow’s too deep to get to that one. There could be another by the (golf) carts. I think I had to jump one last fall. If I could just go outside …,” Bob mused.

It was now my job to wind my way through a dark shed to find that charger and an extension cord—drifts obstructed a lot of that shed, too, but I found my way inside.

I haven’t had to jump start a car in ages, maybe thirty years, so this was going to be quite an adventure. First, to hunt down everything I needed.

As I walked through the dreary shed I shouted, “If there are any critters in here, just get out of my way!” No critters appeared, not even a barn cat.

I looked where Bob thought the charger had been left and came up empty-handed, but I didn’t give up. After a little more searching I found the charger and eventually located a long extension cord.

Back at the car, I pried the hood open. That wasn’t easy either because we had left it nose-in near the wall. Somehow I managed to get in position and lifted the hood—I had forgotten how heavy that hood was. While I pried the brace out, I balanced the hood on my head—I don’t recommend this.

The battery connections were reachable, but before doing anything I went back inside to confer with Bob. “Should I connect the clamps before or after I plug in the charger?”


“Red goes to red and black to black, right?”


Out I went again. The clamps went on, but just barely. When I plugged the charger in the machine lit up and hummed. Success! Well not exactly. I had to get a flashlight so I could see to push buttons to get it charging.

The battery was at 10 percent. After a few hours of charging it showed 75 percent. With that, the car started and I drove it up to the house—the charger and extension cord came along just in case I needed them again in the morning.

Bob was proud of me. Heck, I was proud of me.

I can do things around the house, but usually not the important stuff like Bob has done all his life. Last fall I built a cat tower by myself. Well, not exactly built. I just put together a kit.

Cruella enjoys the vantage point from atop the cat tower at the Manzke farmstead.

The cat tower had directions and some pieces were actually labeled, but not well. After screwing half the pillars in place, I realized that even though it looked like the diagram, the platforms didn’t match up. I got so frustrated I almost asked Bob for help.

Determined, I removed the posts, rearranged them two or three times until I finally had a cat tower. Success, except the cats didn’t like the tower. It took months before Cruella would use it to look out the window.

Bob is looking forward to spring and stepping outside to ride his cart again and maybe drive the lawnmower. Hopefully the snowdrifts will be gone and we’ll be able to find the other charger. Anyway, spring has to be around the corner. We are due.

Susan and Bob Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;