May 30, 2018

Here’s a way to calm your frayed nerves

     Sometimes the only thing that will soothe my nerves is to be shut up in a small space.  I’ve never measured the enclosure, but I’m guessing it’s less than 20 square feet.  When I close the door, I am untethered from the noise and distractions of the world. 
     Perched high on a comfortable seat, I have four glass walls to absorb the advice of Yogi Berra: “You can observe a lot by watching.”  For about 12 hours over the Memorial Day weekend, I did a lot of watching and thinking inside the cab of my Kubota.  I call those sessions “tractor therapy.”
     There’s a radio, but I’ve never turned it on.  My cell phone is switched to vibrate and tucked beneath my left leg.  All I want to hear is the hum of the diesel engine and the whir of the rotary mower.
And from the moment that I grip the steering wheel, I start to feel better.
      You know the feeling.  There are days when you look back—at quitting time—and wonder: “What did I accomplish today?”  That’s never an issue on mowing day if your equipment behaves.  The tractor has mirrors, but I like to—every now and then—turn sideways.  Keeping an eye on where I’m going, while seeing where I’ve just been.  The neat strip next to the tall grass says without saying: “Hey, you just accomplished something.”

      My first pass is always around the fence lines.  I want to check for needed repairs. From five feet up, Yogi, you really can see a lot, such as ground-nesting birds.  Meadowlarks are busy laying eggs right now, so I’m always alert to mow around where a momma bird is doing her thing.  There is one that likes to nest near the pole barn.  When she sees the tractor coming, she’ll do her frantic broken-wing act to lure me away from her soon-to-be-born family.  I smile and steer wide.
      Thistle does not make me smile.  The prickly stalks with purple blooms are a natural beauty.  Birds love thistle, but it’s an invasive menace to pastures.  I didn’t mow the entire cow pasture, but I did declare war on the unwelcomed weed. If anyone had been observing, they might have thought, “That fellow on the tractor must be drunk.”  The only bottle that I had was full of water. I was zigging and zagging over 40 acres to target thistle.
      With the soggy spring, our mule, donkeys and llamas can’t stay ahead of the galloping grass.  Every few weeks, I have to give them some help.  The animals don’t like the tractor. Maggie, our 12-year-old mule, bucks and kicks when the big orange machine chugs into her pasture.  She’ll make a few mad dashes around the field and then skid to a stop.  Staring at me, Maggie will snort, as to say, “Just hurry up and get out of here.” And then she trots into the barn.
      The opposite happens at the pond.  The fish are happy to see me.  They follow the tractor’s shadow to the dam.  They know it is suppertime.  And after I fling their food into the water, I plop on a bench to watch the catfish, bream and grass carp put on a frenzied show. 
      When the water calms, I am calm, too.  Climbing back into my small space, I aim the tractor west, anticipating God’s peaceful show.  Almost always, as if He took a spatula and smeared rainbow sherbet in the sky, the sunset is spectacular.
      More doctors ought to prescribe tractor therapy.