Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Tractors are a farmer’s best friend. Oh, they will say that their wives are important to them, but their tractors might as well have a place at the family dinner table. A farmer will be outside, mowing or plowing, and you will see him cock an ear toward the sound of the tractor engine and listen. I’ve watched as my man turned off the tractor, climbed down and said, “She sounds a little funny, I’d better see what the problem is.” This is the same man who has walked right past a sobbing teenage girl without acknowledging all the wailing, sat through ten rings of the telephone without flinching (or answering it), slept through a huge tree falling in the front yard that brought neighbors four doors down out of their homes, and tuned out a dogfight outside the back door. This is the same man who can’t hear me when I talk while we are driving because he is deaf in his right ear (though much to his chagrin, for the three years we lived in Japan he was forced to not only listen to me while we were driving, but also acknowledge and participate in conversations in the car. Vehicles there drive on the left side of the road, and since the steering wheels are therefore on the opposite side of the car, I was now on his good ear!).
One day I volunteered to drive his tractor to clear the hill where we were to plant trees. It hadn’t been cleared in so many years that the blackberry bushes were taller than the tractor. It was like running over giant spiders: as you drove over them, you ran over the main body but the legs came up over the sides of the tractor and caught at your pants and hair, like in an old science fiction movie. I was given instructions that I could drive over most anything up there on that field, except for the really large trees. So off I went to bush hog the hill. I was doing so very well, going back and forth and up and down the hill, mowing and clearing like a professional.
Honey Locust trees are indigenous to Middle Tennessee. The trunk is quite dense and they are very strong. They have a thorn on them that is a virtual weapon, resembling a medieval sword up to five inches long. They range from a small shrub-sized bush to quite tall, thick-trunked trees. I mowed them down with abandon. Except for one. It really didn’t seem to be too big, so I aimed for it and drove over it. Or attempted to drive over it. When our tractor hit that tree, a terrible noise came from both ends and then it stalled. I looked toward the barn, and sure enough, my man was already on the run. When he arrived and looked at the tractor, I could tell by the look on his face that I had done some major damage. It turns out that I hit the tree off center, which apparently is a bad thing. It pushed the radiator back into the fan, which continued to turn, so it sliced the back of the radiator off as it spun, causing, of course, all the radiator fluid to run out and all over the ground. One of the large thorns had pierced a front tire and caused a blowout. Also, that thick trunk had pushed the side of the frame on which the radiator sat back toward the back end of the tractor.
So there we all were, in the field, my man swatting his hat against his pant leg and trying not to swear, the poor forlorn tractor looking like it had just been through a battle and was limping and bleeding all over the battlefield, and me, hand on my mouth, repeating “Oops” and “Sorry.” And oops, I WAS sorry.
Over the next several weeks, you’d think that I had tried to drown a kitten by the looks I was getting from my husband.
It is now fixed and back in the barn, and sometimes, when I walk by it, I almost hear it murmur, low and under its breath, “just keep walking.” So I do. And I don’t volunteer to mow anymore.
- Maura White grew up on the Pacific Coast in a sleepy beach town and
has lived all over the country, as well as in Asia. What a change it
was for her to move to the country. This lifestyle takes some getting
used to and she uses humor to help her make the adjustment. She and her
husband are working to make their farm, Double Star Bar Farms, a
successful family farm. She keeps
saying “You can take the girl away from the ocean, but you can’t take
the ocean out of the girl!”
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