“Where I Step…”

“… a weed dies,” boasts the tarantula in archy and mehitabel, the 1916 collection of stories about a cockroach and an alley cat by Don Marquis.

Well — where I work, a machine dies.

Saturday was an insanely frustrating day. Earlier in the week I had weedwhacked for hours, only to have the weedwhacker slowly lose power. The last twenty minutes of the job, I had to tilt the machine this way and that to get it to run. Finally it coughed to a stop. When I went to restart it, the pull-cord came off in my hand. Stay calm. I took it to my friend Mike, who returned it to me Friday afternoon with a new pull-cord.

I had a long list for Saturday. First of the chores was weedwhacking. The weedwhacker started, gave out white smoke, and stopped. Four times. Clearly it was not fixed, and would not work.

However, I am accustomed to problematic tools. The trick is not to let it ruin your day. The great thing about a four-page list is that there is always something else to do. Onward!

I would collect stones and branches from the north pasture before Kyle was due to mow it on Sunday. I have an old Craftsman mower with no mowing deck that I use for pulling a cart for various farm chores. Kyle calls it the “I-Haul.” I feel particularly proud of the I-Haul because I, myself, replaced the battery this spring. I went to start the I-Haul. Nothing. Not even a click when I turned the key.

Don’t panic, I told myself. The complete lack of response: surely the cut-off button that prevents starting when the (now non-existent) blades were engaged was not firmly depressed. I spent twenty minutes under the hood, doing complicated things with zip ties to lash the gear lever firmly to the button. At last I was done. Confidently I went to start it. Nothing. Arrgh!

Shake it off, shake it off. Onto the next job. I mucked half the lambing stall. I drove Lucy to town. I spent two hours on dull paperwork. It occurred to me: was Kyle actually going to return on Sunday for the day of mowing he had promised? I texted to him. No, he replied, something had come up. I controlled my irritation (when had he planned to let me know?) and decided I would mow myself. I love mowing. It’s the job I most frequently hire out, as it’s the easiest work and thus kids are happy to do it, which leaves me free for the tough tasks. However, on this day I would mow.

I filled the Cub Cadet and Allen’s Mo-Chief pull-behind mower with gas. The Cub Cadet fired right up, and I drove to the north pasture. I went to start the mower. The mower would not start.

It was at this point that I felt the top of my head start to lift off with rage. I drove to town to pick up Lucy and shop for groceries. I called Mike. I was out of patience and done with projects for the day.

However, yesterday was a new day. I made bacon for Father’s Day breakfast. I moved the sheep. I mucked the stalls and brought the cows in. I walked the dogs for forty-five minutes on the state trails. I made the beds and started laundry. I took out steaks to thaw for Father’s Day dinner.

By 10:00 Dr. Mike arrived to examine the mower, the first of his patients.


He showed me that the gas-intake mechanism had broken. I had inadvertently flooded the spark plug. In ten minutes he had the mower running with a healthy roar. (The I-Haul he took away with him. It needs a new starter. He’ll price the latter for me, to see if it’s worth fixing.)

Sunshine, a beautiful day, a working mower, and a pasture of weeds to mow! Heaven!


I was so happy. Mowing always reminds me of my mother. Using Allen’s gift mower reminded me of Allen. They were great company in my mind as I cut the field in long swaths. [Double-click to have the in-the-field experience.]


Damon called me. I burbled happily about the perfection of Allen’s mower. I hung up.

The mower would not re-start. Don’t panic, I told myself (a regular refrain for me). I inspected the engine and saw the gas-intake mechanism was now completely hanging loose. Surely that’s the problem! I went to my tool room and searched for small bolts and a screwdriver. I found a bolt that was too long but with a nut wound partly up the neck might work for the short term. I bolted the gas mechanism back into place. The mower started right up. I’m a genius!

I mowed for two and a half hours. It would only require another half hour to finish, but it was very hot. I needed to drink fluids and walk the dogs. I stopped, drove home, and returned in twenty minutes. How satisfying it would be to have finished the field!

I went to start the mower. The pull-cord came off in my hand.




2 Responses to “Where I Step…”

  1. Missy says:

    I’m sorry, I laugh-groaned at the last line!

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