My Deere is down. It’s a perfectly serviceable tractor, great at mowing the back acres, until it isn’t. Now it has an inexplicable ailment I am not mechanically savvy enough to pinpoint, much less remedy, and so I had to borrow a tractor for what I’m hoping is the final mow of the season.
When the brand new shiny mower rolled off its trailer and onto my home soil, I was elated. Not only were the tires plump and round enough to roll, but it also has a hood. My own little tractor is a Deere without headlights; its casing is gone, exposing the motor and its workings to ceaseless dust motes and insect bits, which may account for some of its failings as a useful tool right now.
When I fired up the loaner, here came my baby dog, Sam, ready as always for his ride around the yard. He’s always up for mowing. One, he loves the undivided attention he gets from me when I’m cooing to him and petting his underbelly, but two, he has respite from the tyrannical Other Dog, the one I thought was going to die and so I gave it a proper warm place to die but the sucker fooled me and is living today just to torment my poor Sam.
Besides the stellar appearance of my new ride, guess what? It has speed. While the Deere is indeed green and utilitarian when it wants to be, it lacks quick forward mobility, so much so that Sam often nods off, even on the curves when his life should hang in the balance because of gravitational pull on the turn.
Not so with the new one. Once I had carefully made the first round of the acreage, the initial lap that lopped the tops off the outer perimeter and shaved as close as possible to the fence, once I knew the path was clear for safe travel because nothing pesky like fencing or cement blocks — used to block holes where critters may dig out or heaven forbid, come in — hindered forward momentum, well, I literally geared up a notch and whoop-itty-doo look at us move!
Wee baby Sam’s ears elevated on the new breeze and he was one happy pup, as we were on a straightaway and I was perhaps “woo-hoo-ing” a bit, but there is no audio evidence of this.
The turn came a bit abruptly as you can imagine, given that I wasn’t accustomed to the new rate of speed and Sam certainly wasn’t. When I rolled the wheel at the last possible instant, Sam felt external forces trying to pick him up off my leg and he dug in with a fervency that scarred me a bit. He was a tiny eagle on a fleshy wire that the wind had caught and he certainly clung for life.
I know I screamed then, and it wasn’t a joyful noise.
Anyway, once Sam and I understood how the rest of the mow was a’ gonna’ go, we settled into our routine: go fast fast fast, turn, cling and scream, go fast fast fast.
We finished the lawn in record time, and I turned my mowing blades to a bigger beast, the back forty, where the grasses had risen as high as the prairie winds allowed for the entire season.
In a low gear, Sam and I travelled it’s length, sizing it up, determining the work load. All the grasses rose a foot over my head as we sat on the slipperiest bucket seat a tractor has ever known. On every curve I’d clenched that seat with only one butt cheek, as the other slid off. Every curve. My butt was exhausted.
And now my cheeks clenched again because these grasses grow on a hill. Sure, from the front the downhill is imperceptible, but go two feet into that grassy forest and the downturn is sharp.
Idling, staring at the weeds, I told Sam, “We’re going in.”
I felt his teensy paws dancing a bit on my thigh. He was judging the distance down — he’s afraid of heights — and determining whether or not the suicidal leap was worth it against the risk of riding into the unknown like he knew I was contemplating.
I pulled forward before his paws stopped juggling, and with an audible whimper and sigh, he crouched into the fetal position of his long ago puppydom.
I sheltered his body with a forearm and in we went, into the scrub, and once on the apex, when return was impossible, Sam and I both leaned back, practically parallel to the earth, eyes and mouths wide open and both clutching our buttocks for impact.
It was a beautiful thing.
I envision that scene in “The Man from Snowy Mountain”, who escaped down a steep hill on horseback, a treacherous ride at best, where with one hoof laid wrong, both horse and rider would have rolled into death. Our descent was not so well choreographed but it was still exhilarating. For me, anyway; for Sam, not so much.
And when we reached the bottom, when the mower blades had ground the offending grass into dry mulchy pulp, Sam and I sat on our steed, triumphantly looking back at the hill we had overcome. A mighty victory indeed.
Sadly, I had been so involved in the decline that I had not anticipated the fence appearing quite so quickly as it did, and we were nose to nose with chain link, and me without the proper expertise in Backward Mowing.
Ask the Mighty Taurus how I fare with driving anything backward.
It was ugly, but we got out of that trench, and after eight more passes at that looming grassland, we chopped the bulk of it down into reasonably sized pieces. Not all of it. Neither Sam nor I could take that much excitement any longer, and finally we rolled back up toward the casa where we parked the now beloved mower safely out of the elements.
Sam dropped back to earth and I’d swear he kissed it.
I hung up my mowing hat — a fetching, overly sweaty Nike visor, like all good tenders of the prairie Out There wear, I imagine — and turned the mower’s key to Off.
It was a good ride.
And sorry, I can’t give it back. I’m keeping it.
I can trade you a Well Loved and Still Resting Deere.