Well, That Was a Mistake

But at least you had the freedom to make it.

Published online: Jun 26, 2020 Below the Surface Tyrell Marchant, editor
Viewed 1179 time(s)
This column appears in the July 2020 issue of Potato Grower.


Trent knows the blatant disregard for any punctuation besides multiple exclamation points, coupled with the excessive indulgence in capital letters should be warning enough, but he taps on the Facebook ad anyway. Up pops a legitimate-looking website that indeed appears to be some warehouse for Ariat. The idea of getting a pair of Ariats for $30 instead of $250 is more than intriguing, so Trent scrolls through and clicks a couple pairs into his virtual shopping cart, thoughtfully adding a bedazzled pair of boots for his wife, too. Pleased with his adroit online shopping skills, he types in his credit card and mailing information. Total: $79 even. Not too shabby.

Lunchtime over, Trent polishes off his sandwich, puts his plate in the sink, and walks out the front door. As he climbs into the pickup, he hits “Confirm” on his boot order. A new screen pops up telling him to expect a confirmation email, but advising that it will come from someone called AmyShopper rather than from, you know, Ariat. A scam.

Immediately, Trent calls the number on the back of his credit card, and after 15 minutes of being put on hold and transferred to four different friendly but unhelpful customer service reps, is told nothing can be done. The payment has already gone through to a legitimate company in Tulsa—not Ariat, but someone who is apparently authorized to accept and process online credit card payments.

Trent finally hangs up and punches the steering wheel, frustrated at his own stupidity. He didn’t have time for this; the co-op guy is probably already up at the Johnson Creek field with the sprayer, waiting for final instructions. Trent throws the Silverado into reverse with probably a little too much gusto, muttering phrases he’s glad his kids aren’t there to overhear.

Crunch! Snap! Crash! Trent slams on the brakes, now full-on enraged. In his distracted, frustrated haste, he’s driven a hair too close to the old plum tree by the driveway, and his driver’s side mirror now lies in the grass. With his jaw clenching ever tighter and the vein in his forehead threatening to pop, Trent leaves the mirror on the ground and speeds off to meet the sprayer.

An hour later, he’s back at the house, now armed with a chainsaw. In less time than it had taken to talk to the clowns at the credit card company, the offending plum tree is on the ground—along with the power line that had run through its heretofore unkempt upper branches. You know, the line that provides power to the house … and the shop … and the old milk barn where they keep the chest freezer with last fall’s elk in it.

*                      *                      *

We’ve all had days like Trent’s, where one harebrained mistake leads to a hasty decision, which leads to another boneheaded blunder. And while dealing with the natural consequences of those self-imposed mishaps certainly isn’t fun, it’s comforting to know that there’s wiggle room built into the human experience that allows us to make a recovery.

I can’t remember who said it or where I heard it (probably one of those takes-itself-too-seriously historical dramas that only I seem to enjoy), but this cinematic exchange has stuck with me:

“I think you’re making a terrible mistake.”

“The freedom to make my own mistakes was all I ever wanted.”

Maybe your big mistake was taking that job in Minneapolis when you graduated college instead of moving back to the farm. Maybe it was turning down the Minneapolis job and coming back to the farm too early.

Maybe you made the mistake of telling Jenny Burton you loved her the night of senior prom.

Maybe your heartburn is telling you that extra-large order of tater tots was two sizes too big for men of a certain age.

Maybe you thought tractor pull tickets were a perfectly romantic anniversary gift.

Maybe it was trusting your old college buddy last year when he assured you, “No, no, no, no. This isn’t a pyramid scheme.”

Whatever your mistakes have been, you’ve doubtless learned something from at least a couple of them.

As we celebrate nearly two and a half centuries of American independence, I hope we all appreciate the bravery it took our famous Founders and their forgotten-to-history constituents to sign and support that Declaration. It wasn’t some spur-of-the-moment decision, but they were certainly aware of the ramifications if they failed. It all could have been a terrible mistake, but they seized the freedom to make it. That’s a freedom we should cherish now and forever.

*                      *                      *

Just 16 short weeks later, at the tail end of harvest, UPS delivers a package to Trent’s door: Three pairs of knockoff Ariats, all of which turn out to be surprisingly stylish, comfortable and durable. “Huh,” Trent mutters, letting a crooked half-smile creep across his stubble-strewn face. “Maybe it wasn’t a mistake after all.”