Five years ago when I got my first lawn mower, a Craftsman (the brand my husband ought to have stock in), I started using it around our yard. It was an unfamiliar yard to me as I was newly married to a husband 20 years my senior, someone who had stockpiled a lot of material (or in my terms – junk) in the yard. This included plows to trucks that had ceased living years ago, attachments to his many payloaders, backhoes, bulldozer, and tractors, some in operations, others parked in the heavy metal graveyard, a small camper that had been vandalized making it completely unusable, and so much more. One side of the driveway was all scrap metal. I hated seeing that pile of rusting, corroding metal, but I have to admit as a thrifty old Vermonter, Arthur usually found use for a lot of it and neighbors knew to check with him before paying for anything new.
But, let me get back to my first lawn mower. Everything started out fine. I was running that lawn mower all over our scraggily yard, admiring it’s smooth action and how I barely needed to touch it to get it to move forward. We had paid for the top of the line – one with front wheel drive, electric start, self-propelled, that could cut to various heights and could also mulch while it cut. Because this was my lawn mower the job of mowing became mine, although my husband was kind enough to help, especially if I saw a snake. Snakes and I have a hate-hate-hate relationship – they hate my lawnmower, I hate seeing them, and I hate the idea that they may be hiding in the grass ready to bite me. For the most part, though, I actually liked mowing – it’s relaxing and mindless, and I also knew it was helping me to sweat off some pounds.
But then it happened. The grass was higher than usual due to a particularly rainy spell. I could almost hear the yard calling, “Come free me from this burdensome coiffure of witch grass and dandelions! It is a close-cropped crew cut I crave.” So, I set out. My husband was working in the driveway and I got the mower running with a quick pumping of the prime button and a turn of the electric start. I had started to tame this wild yard, and today I was determined to rid the dooryard (that’s a Vermont term I never heard before I met my husband, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t either) of its shaggy appearance. I was not only going to reverse the effects of the rain, but I was also determined to win back even more of the yard – heading into places that should have probably been left for the weed-whacker. It wasn’t long before I was out of gas, and while my husband refueled me he had some unsolicited advise. “Ya know, this is just a lawn mower, it’s not a bush hog. You’re kind of asking a lot of it when you try to cut those heavy weeds.” “I know, I reply, I’m taking it easy.” “Well, I’m just saying – it’s a lawn mower, not a bull dozer.”
I listened, well, no, not really, and went on my way. I started off again, almost determined to show my husband what my lawn mower and I were capable of. We were in the front yard between the bull dozer and payloader that adorned my yard (and less you think these were cute little miniature sized pieces, let me set you straight – these are the big construction type vehicles you see while stuck in traffic and wondering why some idiot chose rush hour to decide to work on the water line) in some particularly high grass. I was going easy, just taking a little bit at a time, certain my trusty friend could handle it, praising it for the job it had already done, when “CLANK!”….and silence.
Of course, my husband had heard it. All of Beaver Meadow must have heard that “CLANK!” It’s that horrible sound that happens when metal hits metal. The metal was the blade of the lawnmower, now bent and useless, and one of the many attachments to the bulldozer or payloader or backhoe or sawmill that was in the yard, that looked completely unscathed. It had been buried in the heavy grass, and I had no idea it was there.
My dear friend has never fully recovered from that accident. We are still friends, although it reminds me every use of the debilitating damage I did to it. Instead of the quiet hum acceptable even to the California noise pollution laws, it now raggedly runs with the clamor and sputtering of a Tasmanian devil. The self-propelling feature that once pulled the machine forward went on disability and has never showed up for work again, and when you leave the machine just to move a stick or stone that might be in the way, the poor fellow shudders and groans, afraid to be left for even a moment. I hold myself fully responsible for the mental change that has come over my partner, he will never be the same again, and until today I thought I had changed, too, admitting that I should have listened to the sage advice of an old Vermonter, and vowing never to disregard Arthur’s advice again.
And for five+ years, I’ve done well. But today, while trying to remove a stump, I broke my husband’s Kubota tractor. Story to come.