July 16, 2020

It’s the Perfect Day That’s Abnormal

• By John F. Chisholm •

My daughter and I rototilled our garden yesterday. The swallows, just back from wintering, swooped about us, twittering. The sky behind them was a deep, cloudless blue. The daffodils bloomed, lending splashes of color to what had been a drab landscape for far too long. Gentle southern breezes cooled us while we worked. After the winter we had, it was marvelous.

Still, I don’t know which received more rototilling, me or the garden.

The tractor I use for rototilling is a 1972 Bolens, H-16. It’s a great little machine. I checked all the fluids, cleaned the sparkplug and put a little gas in the cylinder. After finally recalling the importance of reconnecting the sparkplug, I started it right up.

I checked the pressure on all four tires, added air as required and greased it while I was right there, fussing.

Then we rototilled.

Work progressed well until a front tire split. That exposed the tube. Inflation didn’t last long after that. No.

I really can’t complain. That tire was 43 years old. The tube was, too. I pulled a wheel from my other Bolens tractor, made the switch and went back to work.

When the worst of it was done, I left my daughter at the job and headed to the barn. We add manure to our garden every spring. Because our pasture is so wet, I haul it from the midden with my bulldozer. That’s a 1950 Oliver Crawler, an OC-3. Sure, it’s 65 years old but I wasn’t worried about it developing a flat tire. Not in the least. As it turned out, I should have worried, regardless.

That’s because after only two loads of manure, the tractor began missing. That’s very unusual. That old Wico magneto has been the soul of reliability for years. But, backing the tractor into the garage, shutting it down and pulling the cap revealed the rotor’s carbon contact completely worn away. Wonderful. That meant the bulldozer was down for the count, at least for the weekend. In fact, I just ordered replacement parts this morning.

As a result, I started my 1948 Cockshutt, Model 30 to finish the job the Oliver started. Unfortunately, I was right, that pasture was way too wet for wheeled machinery. The tractor reached the manure pile but, under those conditions, couldn’t pull a load once it arrived. It promptly got stuck.

We pulled it out with yet another tractor and a very long chain. We yarded the manure out of there the same way. Amazingly, that fourth machine, my Cockshutt 550, actually worked as planned.

It was well after noon when we finally stopped for lunch. The garden was rototilled, the manure spread and all those tractors were put away again. Even the borrowed tire was returned to its original tractor. (I’ll purchase a new tire and tube for the H-16.) I leaned on my shovel, feeling pretty rototilled myself, admiring the garden all ready for planting.

My daughter leaned on a garden fork beside me. Turning my way she asked, “Why don’t you just get a new tractor?”

I laughed. “They break down and get stuck, too. But, unlike my old machines, they’re all electronic marvels. I can’t fix computers.” Turning, I pointed toward the garage where my OC-3 was ―temporarily ― residing. “My tractors are all mechanical. I can fix ’em.”

“But, but,” my daughter protested, “don’t you think you need to take action? Really! Every time we do a job, something happens. It wears us out.”

“We finished,” I noted, waving a hand toward our rototilled garden.

We thought about that for a moment. Then I elaborated. “Stop thinking of breakdowns as unusual. Today’s occurrences were all perfectly normal and run-of-the-mill. It’s days where everything goes precisely as planned that are abnormal. Sure,” I admitted, “life tired us out.” I smiled at Kim. “It’s supposed to.”

I put my head back and gawked at that deep blue sky above us. “The important thing, we got to experience it on this stupendous day. How’s it get any better than that?”