Mike got his purchases out of the back of his pickup and carried them into the barn. He had only gone to the hardware store for a new gas can for the chainsaw, but he'd never once in his life been able to leave a hardware store with just one item. He wasn't even sure he trusted a man who could--any man who did real work could always find something he needed.
Barbara, his wife, had never understood the male fascination with hardware stores and had for years staunchly refused to accompany her husband on such trips. The old rancher had tried to explain this to his wife.
"Honey," he said. "You know how female Viagra is called 'jewelry'?"
Barbara didn't answer, but her eyes squinted until she was staring at her husband through narrow slits. Oblivious to the danger, Mike continued.
"Well, a hardware store works the same way for a man." Warming to his subject, the rancher went on. "I've never understood why hardware stores don't sell jewelry. Practical jewelry. If you think about it, earrings are not that much different from putting a bone in your ear. If you women have to hang something from your ears, why not make it something useful?"
"Such as?" his wife asked. If Mike hadn't been so excited about his topic, he might have noticed that his wife's voice was about as cold as yesterday's coffee, perhaps almost as cold as their bedroom was likely to be that night.
"Well, how about a couple of screwdrivers? One regular, one phillips? Then if you needed one, you could..." Mike stopped talking since his wife had turned and walked out of the barn. The problem, Mike thought, was that women were just not practical.
The old rancher went to work on the new metal gas can. Rummaging around in the barn, he found a spray paint can and painted both sides of the gallon can a uniform red. Then, using a brush and a small can of black paint, he carefully labeled one side of the can, "Gasoline and Oil. For Chainsaw Only." On the other side, he wrote "Gasolina y Aceite. Motosierra Solamente."
Mike suspected that there might be an accent mark in there somewhere, but he thought his only remaining ranch hand, Sergio, would probably understand it well enough. At least he hoped so, since he really didn't want Sergio to burn up another chainsaw. He thought briefly about sprinkling in a few accent marks--kind of like adding salt to stew--but since he had absolutely no idea where one might be needed, he decided to quit while he was ahead.
The old cowboy found a half-pint bottle of 2-cycle engine oil to pour into the can. Then all he had to do was fill the can from one of the 5 gallon jerry cans of gas he kept in the metal tractor shed.
The old cowboy unscrewed the metal cap on the small can...and then stopped. Under the can's lid was another, interior cap, fitted over the can's opening. Evidently, this cap had been placed to keep the can air-tight during shipping and to prevent the interior of the can from rusting. Mike tried to pry up the cap with his fingernails, but the cap refused to budge.
Mike produced several small screwdrivers and proceeded to try and pry up the interior cap. Failing this, he used a ball peen hammer to drive a screwdriver under the rim. While he was successful in prying up an edge of the cap, he could not free it from the can's spout.
Half an hour later, the rancher was sitting on the barn floor with the can between his knees and surrounded by an assortment of screwdrivers, old chisels, cold chisels, awls, files and even the odd power tool. A few feet away, safely out of the line of fire, the rancher's dog lay on the floor with his head nestled on his paws as he watched his master struggle with the gas can.
After a can of penetrating oil failed to liberate the lid, the rancher decided to drill a hole through the middle of the metal cap, insert a large screw eye into the hole, then pull out the lid with a pair of water pump pliers.
When Barbara walked back into the barn, she was astonished to find her husband sitting on the floor, the can braced between his feet while he pulled on the pliers so hard his arms were trembling and his face was blue from the physical effort.
"What the hell are you doing?" she asked.
Mike dropped the pliers and looked up at his wife.
"This damn can was made wrong," he said angrily. "The morons who made it probably spot welded this inner lid in place. Probably some idiot trying to get even for the Korean War."
"Let me see that."
Mike handed the can to his wife, who looked at the lid for few seconds. Then, she grabbed the protruding screw eye and calmly unscrewed the interior lid from the can.
Barbara handed the gas can back to her astonished husband with a smile that was not quite friendly but not completely mocking.
"Just think," she said. "I did it without a screwdriver in my ear."