So, yesterday as I was out checking my tomato plant and letting the dogs play, Grandpa rolls back in the driveway. Buttercup in the dashboard sunning herself. Buddy in the passenger seat like a human. They had been mowing. It was around noon and it was starting to sprinkle so they had come home for lunch. My grandpa's favorite hobby is mowing. Everywhere. He mows the ditches of our property and all the lawns in the family. Sometimes he also mows things that aren't even ours. He just loves to mow. He doesn't so much pay attention to landscaping, flowers, or weed eating, so if you are looking for that....you're fresh out of luck. But as he's gotten older, it keeps him busy and it is a way to make him feel like he's still contributing. So it works out for everyone.
That is until he gets on the hill.
My parents live on top of a very large and steep hill that takes a couple hours to mow. My grandpa insists he be the one to mow it. My mother has a small stroke every time. People have come to us and told us they were worried about him. They have talked to us about having him stop. A few years back, my cousin Amber, who was the school counselor at the high school right across the road, saw him chugging along and I'm pretty sure she nearly died or peed her pants. She called Andy (my cousin and her husband) and my mom. If you thought any of the three of them could do any good, think again. We know their intentions are good and they mean well, but I double dog dare any one of you to go and tell Bob Ford he can't do something. Double dog dare. If you come out of that conversation and aren't crying, I'll kiss your feet. I have seen him having a conversation with someone in public and they bring it up and he walks away....while they are still talking. Like I mentioned before, he's set in his ways. It angers him to be told he can't do something. I'm sure that has a lot to do with his age. He feels like people think he's too old or not capable anymore. But whatever the reason, it upsets him. Maybe we are wrong, but we let him do it. We hold our breath every time, but it makes him happy. And at his age, he should be able to do whatever he wants. If that means mowing that god forsaken hill, then so be it. He'd probably tell you that's how he wanted to go anyway. On a tractor. The best part is that my brother, Bobby, just bought a home...with another hill. Super.
Grandpa told me yesterday he was glad he finished mowing before the rain started. If that hill is just the least bit slick he says, it'll send you for a joy ride. He followed that up with he didn't want anyone else on that hill either. If they aren't careful you could get in real trouble. If you are scratching your head right now, don't worry, so am I. If the hill is really that dangerous, it seems to be perfectly logical to have the 89 year old mow it. I never claimed we were a bunch of brainiacs. As he tells all of us, why the worry? He's insured.
All this mowing got me to thinking about when I first learned how to drive the zero turn mower. Several years back, when I was still in high school, I worked at the waterpark as a lifeguard. My dad also decided that summer I needed to contribute around the farm. Fine by me. But if he thought I was painting fences or something, he had another thing coming. He decided I would be the family mower. This was before Grandpa did all the mowing. At that time he was probably busy climbing the grain bin to check out the view or something. That's a whole other story....but up until about 4 years ago, he would climb the grain bin and just stand at the top with his hands on his hips checking out the farm. I think he loved the view and it was relaxing for him, but at the tender age of 85 and with no way of steadying himself once he was up there, it was a less than ideal place for him to be. Apparently, he thinks he's Evil Knievel.
Back to my mowing adventures, this was when we had just gotten the zero turn mower. Needless to say, I didn't know how to drive it. I'm not sure how I lucked out on this particular summer day, but my dad was busy and Bobby wasn't around. So, I scored Chris as my teacher. Rad. Not.
I love Chris. I really do. He's good at everything he does. But, God bless his heart for not becoming a teacher. Prior to the mower, the last time Chris and I had paired up as partners on the farm he needed me to pull some machinery to some other land we farm. My parents were gone on a fire board conference and Bobby was living in DC at the time. I was his only option. He's not an idiot. He wouldn't choose me to be his hired man unless he absolutely had no other choices. I've driven a tractor or two, but aside from that I'm pretty much worthless with farm equipment. Which is why it shouldn't surprise anyone that on this day, he needed me to pull the combine head half way to Jacksonville. That's right, the longest piece of farm equipment we own is the first piece of equipment I ever pulled anywhere. I was pretty confident I was going to die that day. And so was my Grandma. Somehow I conned her into riding with me. With my hands firmly locked on 10 and 2, she just kept giving me words of encouragement....while patting my leg and praying the whole way. No lie.
Because Chris is good at everything he does, he's not exactly great at slowing down to show you how it was he did it. You pick it up fast or get left in the dust. Or in my case.....leave him in the dust. We started off great. He was showing me where all the important buttons were, how to start it, how to make it go, how to turn the blade on. He got through his little tutorial fairly quickly and painlessly and told me to go ahead and give her a little test drive. That's when it got sticky. That some buck was a little bit touchy on the go. I thought I could ease into in.....and instead I shot off like a bottle rocket. And Homeboy forgot to tell me how to stop it.
I took off at what I was sure was the equivalent of Mach 5, leaving Chris with a trail of dust and rocks to the face. By the time he could see again, all I could hear were cuss words. Lots of them. I've never known anyone to put together a string of cuss words quite like Chris. It makes me laugh every time. By then he was running after me trying to tell me how to stop it. I couldn't hear that part though. Probably because I was laughing, which he did not find funny, by the way. After a few seconds that seemed like years, I finally got that bad boy stopped half way across the farm. Once ole' boy caught up to me huffing and a puffing, I asked why he was so dusty. Again, apparently not the appropriate time for a joke. I think his exact response was, "what is wrong with you!?" I think the real question is, what's wrong with you, dude? You're the one that didn't tell me how to stop.
Chris is affectionately referred to as Hilter among the family. One might ask how that can be affectionate, but really it is. He's the work horse and the business mind behind everything. He's the responsible one and the serious one. The voice of reason, if you will. Bobby and I are the ones that gave our mother gray hairs. The ironic part of that is that Bobby and I are lucky to even be here, given the complete dirt leg of a child that Chris was. But none the less, he's turned into the brains of the operation and when he says he wants something done he means, like, yesterday. So, basically, he and I are perfect work partners because I am so skilled at manual labor and often handle things in a very mature manner (i.e., the laughing). Once he quit cussing at me for laughing at him and blowing rocks in his face, he did ask if I was okay. And then told me to get to work.
My next go at the mower went better. That is, until I put the mower in the pond. Nobody told me that they were so touchy about a little wet grass. Crap. Plus, it wasn't even my fault. Someone left the hose on behind the dog kennel leaving a mass amount of water heading straight for the pond. I hit that and there was no correcting it. I couldn't get ahold of my dad. And once again, Bobby wasn't around. Seriously, where is Bobby? He's the only one that relates to me when I get in situations like this. Mainly because he's already done them once or twice before. Rule #1: Never leave a fellow crasher behind. Bobby! Why do you continue to leave me hanging? I tried revving the engine some thinking if I really gave it a good go, she might just climb out for me. No. I know this will stun you guys, but that actually didn't happen. I put myself further in the pond. So, I was forced to call Chris. He was on duty. If you can imagine how happy he might be to come pull me out of the pond on a regular day, times that by 10 when he's on duty. He. Was. Stoked. He pulls up and I was bee bopping to some jams on my iPod. He first question was, why was I still sitting on it. Well, to be honest, I didn't feel like getting my feet wet. I asked if I could do anything to help. He told me I'd done enough. Fun hater: party of 1. Needless to say, he pulled the mower out....with his squad car. Again, I thought that part was hilarious. He did not. I asked if he wanted me to finish mowing. All he said was "you're an idiot" and walked back to his car and went back to work. Apparently, it's not great on the engine to run it after you've given it a drink of water. Who knew?
My mowing adventures only lasted one summer. Grandpa took over shortly after that. Thank you baby Jesus for that blessing, because unlike Bob Ford, I am not insured.