Be proud of your callouses

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Upcoming I’ll be visiting Texas, a place where I spent many formative years. When my family moved north, I was very unhappy because I left one of the places I felt genuinely at home. Living there taught me respect for guns and gun use, understanding that the animals we eat are still living creatures, that “modern” living isn’t always the best living and some of the most profound people are the quietest. (There is a lot more there, but that’s for my personal blog)

I remember an elderly woman who lived down the road from our trailer park. She and her husband lived on a small farm that had been in the family five generations.. She still had an outhouse, raised mules and assorted vegetables for money. The first time I ever shook her hand it struck me how calloused it was and how the joints of her hand were oversized and hard. When I asked if she was okay, she laughed and told me.
“Always be proud of your callouses.”

And clearly that stuck with me because it’s been over three decades and I remember that.

As of today, haven’t done anything relating to farm work or animal husbandry  in a long time. Even five years ago, a friend asked for some help on her farm and that took it out of me! (and I didn’t even do the hard jobs!)  But early in the morning, hearing animals and having a job to do-that is something that happens working at renaissance faires. Sure it’s a long way from getting up at four in the morning to shovel manure but it still requires that one does repetitive tasks, is diligent and often comes into contact with, well, animal scat and hay.

On my own hand I have three callouses. They are on my right hand and I know people feel them when we shake hands. I move in a super-polite society and no one ever remarks on them. One is just between where my thumb meets my palm, one is down  about 3/8ths of an inch from there and the other is just below my “lifeline” in my palm. I have an office job and as much as I joke that it’s from “using a mouse too much” it is actually from my Starfire sword. My friend Valkyrie knows I like a thick wrap on my sword. (And she’s good at it so she does mine- my attempts  look like a kindergartener discovered leather scraps and glue.) Although I caution everyone in the troupe to wear gloves, generally when practicing I like to be bare-handed. My blade is  not sharpened and weighs somewhere between 2-3 pounds. Not a lot until you’ve been using it for ten minutes. But it definitely rubs when I adjust the grip, move it with my hand, wrist and arm. My sword teachers have similar callouses and wrists like steel.  (I am wishing for the wrists, not there yet)

I try to explain to people just picking up the sword that it’s incremental and that it is painful and eventually it becomes a duty job, not a glamorous one.  Some people are naturally gifted and can be impressive right out of the gate, but if they have to maintain that stamina, endure all that rubbing and use the wrist, it loses its appeal and they complain.  I must admit I’m one of the hardest hearts about this and generally hand them ibuprofen and nod. And I don’t like it when others use my sword, the leather absorbs sweat and can occasionally cause me hives cross my hand-a big, uncomfortable marker where I hold the grip. But that’s not enough to give up a show or stop working, I just suck it up and hope that it will heal up and next time won’t be as bad. (And be vigilant that my sword isn’t borrowed)

So where is this meandering going? I am not “of the land” like the woman in my anecdote, and as romantic as it would be to see the neighbor’s house in a sixth generation, when I looked on Google Maps it appears that it is now industrial complexes in Grand Prairie. And although there is no way that woman is still alive, I am happy that she gave me a legacy .  It might be spurious that my callouses are from an “entertainment” activity but I’ve still earned them, and even when I screw up, have bad days, whine about practice, I’m proud of my callouses and want to pass that on to others so that when they look down at a worn, rough hand, maybe they will think of me and be proud of the callouses they’ve earned.