WE WERE SENT to a store in a nearby town to buy a fence for keeping out the barbeque-eating hound and her gang of strays. They’d set up camp on our sandy lot to watch and wait for the next big steak.
The store will be helpful and honest, we were told. That was enough for us. So we drove half an hour inland to General Juan Madariaga to find Katua. There it was, just inside the town on the main drag. A blue warehouse-type structure, with a series of posts out front for, well, tying up horses. We parked out of the way of the posts just in case.
The kids had fallen asleep, so my wife stayed in the car.
“I’ll be right back,” I told her.
I went inside and looked around at the shelves piled high with merchandise, from dog food to sneakers and even chainsaws. Mop poles hung from the ceiling alongside rakes and brooms. Horse blankets, lawnmowers and rubber boots over there. And plastic trash bags and grass seed over there, along with candies and cigarettes, jeans and lassoes, horseshoes and lollipops.
I stood in line behind three shoppers.
The first ordered chicken feed.
The next a dozen of eggs and a bottle of cola.
The third ordered 20 nails and then asked how much the horse saddles were going for.
“I’d like a fence.”
The man behind the counter looked at me and said, “Alright, how much you need? What are you looking to fence in?”
I gave him the dimensions of my garden-cum-forest and he jotted it all down. Then he opened a fat notebook with sheets and sheets of lists of items, numbers, sizes and prices.
“Right,” he said, “you’ll need…”
And he started to explain as he flipped through the sheets and jotted down items, did calculations and paused to ponder before lunging back into the fat notebook and flipping through the sheets and jotting more down.
“Here,” he said, handing me a piece of paper. “This is everything you’ll need for your fence.”
I looked it over. Gates, posts, turnbuckles, wire and another dozen items.
“So,” he said. “You want it.”
“Yeah,” I said. “But… do you really have all this stuff?”
He looked at me dully.
“Where do you want it delivered?”
I gave him my address, paid and that was that, except for one question.
“How on earth do you keep track of all the stuff in here?” I asked.
He looked at me dully.