I hauled back the enormous barn door and there it was: the lawn tractor. Just me and John Deere and a helluva lot of lawn.
I decided my lawn-cutting experience might benefit from a closer relationship with the lawn tractor. Taking a cue from my friend Muffy, who recently named her new car Betzsy, I tried to think of something feminine and jaunty; something that would roll off the tongue a little smoother than "the lawn tractor." I decided on "Jean Green, mean machine" (or "Jeanne Verte," for when I was feeling multilingual). We'd become friends, Jean and I, over the many summer hours we'd clock together. She'd always start for me, and never buck me off. She'd never run out of gas and strand me mid-cut. It would be the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship, I was sure.
Confident that I'd soaked up all of D & C's lawn tractor wisdom, I dutifully checked the oil and hopped on. After several tries, Jean's engine snarled, sputtered and refused to turn over. I tried patting her on her cobwebby green hood. I tried verbal encouragements as though she were a moody child. Nothing. I restrained myself from using D's traditional method of fixing things and kept my foot firmly on the ground.
In despair, I clomped back to the house and called my mother-in-law, who was a lawn tractor guru. She wouldn't make fun of me and she'd know what to do; it could be our little secret. When my father-in-law answered and told me she wasn't home, I took a deep breath. "Dave," I whispered, switching to my newly acquired farm vernacular, "she don't start."
He drove over, surveyed Jean's engine for a few silent moments, then pushed the throttle all the way up until it touched the picture of the rabbit. I hung my head. I'd forgotten about the throttle. To lessen my embarrassment, Dave mumbled something about engines being stubborn sometimes and gave the engine a shot of ether (which, incidentally, is highly explosive). I turned the key and Jean lept to life with a trimuphant roar. Dave finished his visit by yelling a reminder not to shoot cut grass onto the uncut sections of the lawn. I'm nothing if not well-instructed.
And so we were off! My husband and brother in law would be amazed at my precision and skill. People would drive by Someday Farm just to admire Jean and I on our weekly rounds. Maybe I'd even give Jean a new coat of pink paint. I couldn't wait until bikini season.
After a few effortless runs up and down the stable lawn, where I shot some gravel perilously close to the shop windows and backed into a fence, I tackled the south border of the property. There I met my first Waterloo: hills. Every time Jean would start to heave and rise on a slant, I'd panic and steer her the other way. It felt like she was going to betray me, roll to her side like a felled buffalo and crush me to death. Okay, so Jean and I wouldn't do the hills. Hills would be "man's work."
Turning northward, I attempted to cut the remaining stable lawn. That's when I realized I needed a better bra. Run your finger enthusiastically over a head of cauliflower and you'll get an approximation of what our lawns are like. Even at her slowest speed (where a crawling baby could pass us), riding Jean anywhere on our property is a tit-jostling, butt-thumping experience. I felt like Roy Schieder in Jaws, only I didn't need a bigger boat: I needed a bigger butt.
Lumpy-bumpiness aside, I found myself entering a state of lawn-tractor zen. The droning buzz of the blades becomes as soothing as a monk's chant, and you begin to notice the loveliness around you: sweeping green fields, the smell of the mock orange bushes, the simple beauty of a dandelion...until you cut its head off. I began to see the appeal of farming; driving a tractor up and down a field, or going round and round cutting hay would give you a lot of time to think. It's a solitary activity and there's no one you can share it with except the birds, the bugs and a few curious deer. And you can see instant results: the shaggy mess becomes a lawn again - for a few days, anyway.
After 3.5 hours, I hoisted my stiff self off of Jean and hobbled into the house for a beer. Sitting on our back stoop, I raised the bottle in a toast to my green partner. Long live Jean Green! and long live Someday Farms, lumpy lawns and all.