The polarities of being a gopher

Little did I know on the day I married my husband I would enter into a gopher lifestyle.

Being a gopher is somewhat similar to a perpetual honey-do list. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad thing, but once you get started, it's hard to break away from this ever-demanding role.

Now, 40 years, three months, six days and two hours after I said, I do, I've graduated with an advanced degree in gophering, magna cum laude.

Most of the time, it's not a big deal, but when Brian has a fix-it project, I somehow find myself back in Gopherville. When he built a carport onto the garage, guess who's running back and forth for this, that and whatever?

Totally unorganized, Brian would just as soon throw his tools on the ground, rather than slip them into the handiest of weekend warrior accessories – a tool belt.

This means I spend a lot of time chasing things down: hammer and nails, screw driver, crowbar, pry bar, chalk line and measuring tape, drill and drill bits. You name it, I know how to gopher it.

One thing about gophering, you hurry up and wait a lot. And for systematic thinkers, like me, this allows plenty of time for noticing things that could make gophers relatively obsolete. Such as the convenient recessed round holder on top of the ladder; now that's a perfectly good place for loose nuts and bolts.

And those slots on the ladder thingy for the paint can – you know the shelf that flips down when a stepladder is erect. Whatever it's called, it has really nifty holes for hand tools.

When passing time waiting and then waiting some more, I decided to slip his "old faithful" hammer, handed down from his father, into one of those slots. In another, I placed his trusty heavy-duty orange and black-handled screwdriver – the kind with multiple bits and shafts. And in the last, the crowbar, of course.

Pleased with myself, I remarked, "How cool is that?" projecting loudly enough so maybe, just maybe he'd notice. "Hey," I said, "they put these nifty little holes up here for tools and stuff."

Deeply concentrating over exacting 93.5-inch-long by 48-inch-wide plywood roof sheeting, he didn't even look up. Those tools stayed in place for a little while – that was until he needed to move the ladder and tossed them on the ground, where they waited for me to gopher again.

Being a gopher is a thankless job. And, yes, it can be extremely boring. Whether I'm holding, pushing, steadying or bracing, I must admit, my attention tends to wander.

Like all those pine needles on the garage roof that should be swept off before they settle in the gutter. And the gutters themselves all caked with decayed leaves and sediment – shouldn't we clean those out, too?

What about that rotting sideboard under the overhang? Let's slap some paint on that or should we replace it. We should rake all those leaves, burn the wood pile over there, store the lawn chairs, clean the air conditioner unit and on and on.

And while the "shoulds" are lyrics to my thought process, they send Brian reeling – all because he's what's called a linear thinker.

Linear thinking is a slow, methodical process of thought that progresses step-by-step, where a response to a single step must be completed before even thinking about the next.

The way I look at it – anyone in a relationship with a linear thinker probably has done his or her share of gophering for this and that and whatever.

When gophering for a linear thinker, plan on many trips back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth to the tool bench, garage, shed, house and hardware store.

Like most wives, I tried curing my husband by recommending that he make a mental list of what he needed for a project and then gather everything at once. It would save a ton of time and the project would get done much sooner.

All you women have probably already guessed, my efforts haven't worked one iota and here's why. For linear thinkers, like Brian, gophering one thing at a time is a way of life. It's how things get done.

Conversely, systematic thinkers like me see things holistically, clearly seeing the big-picture, considering all the steps from A to Z.

We take the long view. We look at how parts operate, not individually, but as a whole. This tends to overwhelm linear thinkers. Trust me on that.

That's why when a linear thinker and a systematic thinker stay together for any length of time, such as 40 years of marriage – that, my friends, is called love.

2012 © Copyright Paula Damon.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email  boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.

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