As I get older, I depend more and more on kinesthetic memory to stay on track. It's not so much that my mind is failing as it is that my hard drive is crammed full and random thoughts spill over as a distraction. Muscle (kinesthetic) memory is developed by doing the same thing over and over in the same way each time. It is the skill that allows a typist to hit the right keys without looking or even thinking about placement, but it takes practice. This is particularly helpful to me down in the barn. My mind goes freewheeling as I tend to chores and I often go along for the ride, which could end up with some interesting consequences were it not that muscle memory takes over. Goat on the stand, feed in the bowl, brush down the coat, wash the udder, grab a pail and start milking: that's the set routine. If I start to reach for the brush first, my left hand says, "Hold it right there, kid. Get the food first!" Oh, right. I don't need to see the anxious look on the girl's face before I realize I'm out of sync with the program. I dust the living room (under duress) by starting with the stair rail and working my way systematically around the room. Going back and forth doesn't work for me; some one piece or another gets left out to be discovered only after the tools have been put away. I have to stick with the established plan or it's an epic fail. I'm just sayin'.
I was unintentionally the cause of a small tragedy the other day. Coming home after one of the dreaded outings, I was driving down the long hill called Suicide Hill, not because it is dangerous but because of the sign one local put up that says, "Please drive slow, suicidal deer," when I saw Camille's truck pulled over to the side of the road with flashers on and the back window up. I stopped to see if she was in trouble and rolled my window down. She explained that she had found 17 adolescent rats, not mice, together in the bottom of a grain bucket and was releasing them into the woods by the creek. Being Camille, she also provided corn and apples for the little ones. We talked for a minute (we can do that on these country roads). Leaving, I took my foot off the brake and as I started to roll, Camille yelled, "Stop, stop, stop!" I did, but too late. One of the little creatures had raced back up the hill and across the road, directly in front of a tire. Oh crum. Maybe that sign should say "suicidal deer and rats." To my score over many years of one chipmunk and one turkey, I must now add one rat killed. I felt terrible, and worse that it happened right in front of my kindhearted friend who was there on an errand of mercy. Make that 16 rats set free and one small meal for the vultures. Not an experience I'd want to do over and over.