El Tonto

No one likes to admit the dumb stuff they do. Like putting hemorrhoid ointment on your toothbrush because you were sleepy, it was dark, and you grabbed the wrong tube. Or, looking for your glasses all over the house, turning over couch cushions and tearing through piles of junk on the kitchen counter, only to realize after 20 minutes of frantic searching that they were on top of your head the whole time.

Not that I have ever done either of these things.

When a person falls victim to dumbness, it takes real fortitude to concede to the truth. Confession can be down-right embarrassing.

A customer drove in at the farm yesterday who needed one small tree. I walked out to the barn to get in the EZ-Go so I could run pull it from the field. A working kind of golf cart with a dump bed and knobby tires. No key. I looked in the cup holder. I looked on the work bench. Still no key.

My first thought, the very first place my mind went to, was to find fault with one of my guys at the farm. Some knucklehead had put the key in his pocket. How am I supposed to keep up with everything around here? I’m living in a Far Side cartoon with a bunch of nincompoops.

There is something oddly satisfying about placing blame in someone else’s lap. Superiority endorphins swell the imagination like a balloon. A shake of the head and a roll of the eyes and suddenly you feel, how should I say it, above the fog of dimwittedness.

I drove my truck out across the farm. Got the tree. Helped the customer load and get things covered with the tarp. When I got done, I thought, “You know, I’m gonna ride out there and ask the guys about that key. I bet I know which goofball has it in his pocket.” One, in particular, had driven off with keys before.

But I needed to go down to the pumphouse first and reset the clock controller for the irrigation. Normally, I would take the EZ-Go. I took a few steps toward the barn to get it and remembered. Dang, no key.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind walking. I walk a lot out here. I hate to crank the truck just to ride a hundred yards. I used to have a four-wheeler out here to help with a lot of the running around. Go up to far west end on the hill to take a picture of a Magnolia for a customer. Run down to the barn to pick up a few parts to repair an irrigation line. Go find the guys pruning up in Bed 13 so they can pull an order for a customer who’s on his way.

Back and forth. Back and forth. All day, some days.

The point is, I got busy with the pump station, got a phone call, answered a text and then walked back up to the office and forgot all about the lost key.

I didn’t even think about it again until the end of the day. I was telling Cory about it. All the guys had already gone home. No doubt some screwball among them had it in his pocket.

“I just hope they don’t lose it and leave it at home. I could’a really used that EZ-Go today. And I know I’ll need it tomorrow.”

I was still carrying on about it when I got home. In great detail, I described for my wife how some days I think I’m the only one with half a brain. Dumb stuff just gets in my craw. It’s like a faucet that drips in the night while you’re trying to sleep. The more you think about it the more aggravated you get.

I have done plenty of dumb stuff in my time. I’m not immune to boneheaded moves.

Not so long ago I was pulling a tire off my wife’s car. The right front was flat on the ground, which didn’t help matters. Even with tires fully inflated, her car sits almost as close to the ground as a Possum’s belly. Barely room to squeeze the toy scissor jack underneath.

I got the tire off and went to get the spare out of the trunk. When I leaned in, my thigh against the rear end, the car rolled off the jack and buried the front wheel hub about three inches into the ground. What kind of moron doesn’t put a wheel chock under the rear tire? The kind that looks like me, I guess.

The good news is that I don’t have a paved driveway. Took me a while to dig out enough to get another jack under the frame. The first one was pinned to the ground. I chocked both rear tires this time. Dumb stuff just kills me.

I spent part of the evening doing a few things around the yard after supper. I kept thinking about that key. I sat down on the couch and took my boots off and headed for the shower. I stood in front of the shelf in our closet to empty my pockets like I do every day. Wallet. Loose change. Pocket knife. Shop rag. Keys.

And there it was. My truck keys and the EZ-Go key. I was the last one to drive it and also the sorry so-and-so that stuck it in his pocket. I never do that. But being a dummy sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I’m already apologizing in my head for everything I’ve been saying all day long about the guys at the farm. Open mouth, insert foot.

I got to the farm early the next morning. EZ-Go key in my pocket. The guys came in to hit the clock, and my lead guy, Juan, says to me, “Hey, Patron, the key to the EZ-Go is missing. When I put keys away yesterday, I no find it anywhere.”

“Oh yeah. I couldn’t find it yesterday, either. I looked all over for it. Some dummy probably put it in his pocket and took it home.” I wondered if Juan understood what a dummy was.

“I sorry Patron. I ask the guys. I find it.”

I couldn’t let it go on any longer. I reached into my pocket and tossed the EZ-Go key on the bench. “I’m the dummy, Juan. I don’t remember putting the key in my pocket, but I’m guilty.”

He smiled. “El Tonto.”

“What?” “Mi Espanola es no bueno.”

He laughs and says it again. “El Tonto. You the dummy.”

Look, I watched the Lone Ranger religiously as a kid. I never knew this. I was sure that the Lone Ranger’s sidekick was his friend, his confident, his main man. And all this time the old Masked Man was calling his closest companion a knucklehead.

There was only one thing left for me to say.

“You Juan. Me Tonto, Kemosabe.”

2 thoughts on “El Tonto

  1. Just wait until it happens to both the ‘adults’ in the house. Can’t find ‘nuthin’ around here. Too bad we can’t blame it on our kids any more. Our oldest is now 49 and the youngest is 37. To clarify… none of them live closer than 10 miles away.


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