We were watching In the Heat of the Night when I told him I thought I should learn how to drive the tractor.
Sitting in his recliner, with a cigarette between his fingers, he nodded his head.
A week later, there was a new riding lawnmower in the toolshed for me.
I was not surprised. My feelings were not hurt. I understood. It was the old man’s way of making sure his oldest granddaughter would not get hurt. A potential runaway lawnmower would be much easier to stop than a runaway tractor.
So I gave that lawnmower hell.
The grass barely had time to breathe before it heard the lawnmower coming for it again. I would sometimes mow three times a week.
The brand new mower’s belt broke within the first month. Actually, it broke three times in one day. That’s because it took us that many times to realize we were putting it on the wrong way. It was a costly day.
Seeing as how the lawnmower was getting more than its fair share of use, I found him waiting for me one morning in the garage alongside the DR Trimmer / Mower, which is essentially a smaller scale walk-behind bush hog.
He showed me how to use it. I became a pro at it as well.
I think I thought that if I just did everything he told me to as best as I could do it and then some, then he might just let me on that tractor. But more often than not, when I was finished with my tasks, I would find he had snuck out to the field on the tractor, to work in the hay.
Old farmers are quite set in their ways.
Despite never tilling up that land from the seat of a tractor, it still became a part of me.
I tried to leave that place, as he had once done, when he was a young man, albeit for different reasons. Try as I might though, that dirt, the Johnson grass, and hell, even the cow shit, kept calling me home.
Some people are meant to help bring babies into this world or run a Fortune 500 company. Some are meant to pull calves out of their mamas and work the same land their family called home 100 years ago. Some of us just get a front row seat from a lawnmower while it’s all going on.