The voice was my friend Larry’s. It wasn’t really a question, as we both knew the answer. I’d just told him that I had rented a walk-behind brush hog and hoped to mow the entire eight-acre back field this weekend.
I’ve broken my “new” old lawnmower so many times this summer that I couldn’t face the extreme likelihood of breaking it again on this rocky, log-strewn field. Pushing our way through the waist-high winter rye recently, and knowing I had no access to a tractor, my friend D had suggested a walk-behind brush hog.
I actually own a primitive version of such a thing, a sickle-bar relic of my father’s, purchased at least thirty years ago. However my brother had told me it needed repairs. Though I imagine Mike can fix Dad’s machine for me someday, it seemed simpler for now just to rent a modern, functional one and get the job done.
Larry manages a wealthy horse stable and has a tractor with any number of attachments. The idea of fighting across my acres on foot struck him as insane. However to me the brush hog seemed to be my only option.
I am always nervous of new equipment but D and Jeremy at the rental store had been confident I’d have no problem.
“It’s not going to kill me, is it?” I asked.
“Not unless you lie down and let it run over you,” said Jeremy, rolling his eyes. He is 25 and treats me like I’m a backward little brother.
The machine didn’t look too intimidating. Yes, it outweighed me considerably, but D assured me that it was self-propelled. Easy-peasy, right?
Yesterday morning after barn chores I fired it up. The handles are about chest high.
I immediately realized the boys hadn’t stopped to consider that I am not as strong as they are.
What I hadn’t stopped to consider is that my land is not smooth. With every bump in the ground, every root, every rock, the machine jumped and turned in a new direction. To turn it back I had to pull with all my might. I was fighting it every step of the way, struggling to keep my progress reasonably straight.
I was soon puffing. After twenty minutes sweat was pouring down my body; my shirt was pasted to my belly. After forty-five minutes, muscles I didn’t know I had in my upper back, shoulders, and upper arms were on fire. Just keeping a grip on the steel side handles as they jerked and plunged was raising blisters on my hands. Moreover, it took me more than half an hour to cut a tiny three-foot swath around just half the field.
Oh dear. This was going to be tough.
I distracted myself by thinking of Allen, my elderly friend who is my patron saint of tough jobs. So many times I’ve seen Allen work twelve-hour days, driving himself until his eyes are bloodshot and he is so tired he can barely speak. Yet he never, ever complains. Once over lunch I groused to him about the difficulties of a task on which I was engaged. He listened patiently and then said merely, “Done whinin’?”
So yesterday I wrapped my hands with duct tape against blisters and resolved not to whine. I also took a bit of Allen’s advice and kept my eyes on the machine.
Because when you’re exhausted and trembling after only an hour, it can be a mistake to look up. (Double-click to enlarge.)