Now that the fields are slowly drying out, I need to go over them with the chain-drag to break up all the old manure piles and cow pies that did not break down on my poor soil over the last six months of winter. On Betty’s lush fields, manure disappears in weeks. On my acid acres, it can linger in a petrified state seemingly forever. I bought a chain-drag years ago to deal with this. With the manure scattered thinly it has an better chance of disintegrating and feeding the soil.
I’ve been looking for used wheel weights and chains for my lawn mower for some time. The four-foot iron chain-drag is just heavy enough that the mower will often balk going up slopes. I called my young friend D to ask him if he knew of anyone getting rid of old weights and chains.
“Forget that,” he said gruffly. “I’ll drop off my four-wheeler for you to use. It’s four-wheel drive.”
Oh, my. I had ridden on a four-wheeler exactly twice. The first time was back in 2005 when I took my cow Katika to a farm half an hour away to be bred by their bull. The farmer invited me to have a look at his herd, which was grazing deep in his acreage. “Hop on,” he said, and so I found myself in a full-body press, hanging on for dear life to the waist of a perfect stranger as we rocketed up wooded trails to look at cows.
The second time was last summer, when I’d hired D to help me take down hundreds of sapling black cherries around the pond. We were sweating in the hot sun and scratchy branches when I looked up and saw a strange truck pull in up the hill at the garage. It parked, people got out and back in, and then the truck began to leave.
“Gosh, I wonder who that is?” I asked idly.
“Hop on,” said D, jerking his head toward his four-wheeler, and again I was clinging like a limpet with my face buried in a man’s back. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me at the time, D loves to go fast. Vrroooom! We roared up the twisty dirt road, bouncing high over ruts and leaning around curves, while I screamed with terror and D laughed and gunned the accelerator. We caught up to the truck just as it paused before pulling out onto the highway. I managed to dismount and totter to the door. It was my friend Mike, driving someone else’s truck. He looked at my ashen face and said in concern, “Gee, Sis, what’cha doin’?”
After that, I gave D a fierce scold and the four-wheeler a wide berth. He apologized, still laughing. He couldn’t really imagine anyone being frightened. But I am a complete wuss.
Now D was offering to let me drive the monster myself. I dithered. It certainly would make my life easier, but…
Two nights ago he brought the machine down after work. Patiently (for him, one of the most impatient people alive), he showed me the ignition, the ON button, the choke, the accelerator, the foot-controlled gears, the parking brake. My brain was frozen with dread and struggled to follow. “I need to write this down,” I said nervously. He brushed that off. “You don’t need to write nothin’ down! Just listen.”
He backed the four-wheeler off his trailer and then watched as I anxiously climbed onto the seat, followed his instructions to start and shift, and the machine crept up and down the driveway. His face was a study. He and his father, both naturals on heavy equipment, have always been amazed by my ineptitude with machines. (“You ain’t really dumb,” Allen would always encourage me.)
“You’ll be fine,” D said kindly at last. Then he added, “But Emma drives faster’n you do.”
His granddaughter, Emma, has just turned four years old.
I’m so grateful to these friends who help me so often.