June 4, 2020

The Daze of Our Lives

Illustration by George Danby

Illustration by George Danby

 • By John F. Chisholm •

I worry.

I worry that that I’m not all here.

Unfortunately, I have cause.

Perhaps an example would help.

A few years ago, I made an equipment cart for my Bolens lawn tractor.  The axle, hitch, wheels, tires, tubes and lumber all came from different pieces of discarded machinery found at the dump.  I’m a firm believer in recycling.  In this case, the finished product was 100 percent scavenged parts.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been so zealous.

I know.  There are carts available commercially.  I have one.  It just isn’t big enough.  I put up side panels, doubling its capacity, and still found it inadequate.

Perhaps I should explain that I’m not looking to haul heavy loads with my garden tractor.  I have larger machines for that.  It just seems awfully wasteful using one of them for little jobs where it’s only bulk that’s giving me trouble.

Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that I have anything against walking.  I do a lot of it.  It’s just that it might be a 40-minute hike to a corner of the place only to discover that I need something left back at the house once I get there.  To avoid wasting time, I stuff my homemade equipment cart with trimmers, extra line, clippers, a chainsaw, tools, gas and oil and whatever else might be needed and then I drive.

That’s because every year there are hundreds of places all over this farm that require attention.  Trees and limbs come down that have to be cut up and hauled away.  There’s mowing, clearing and trimming to the edges of our fields to be completed annually.  (That way we have the same acreage in hay, year to year.)  In the fall there are daffodils, hyacinths and tulips to plant.  Birdhouses go up, are cleaned annually, reroofed periodically and coated in linseed oil.  Fences need repair, requiring tools, wire and insulators.  NO HUNTING signs come down in June only to go back up in October.  Apples are picked.  The cider press is carted around.  This list goes on and on.  It’s  never completed.

In fact, it lengthens as I age and the farm grows larger.

Recently I rebuilt the stone headwall around a culvert, cleaned the ditch leading to it and trimmed around a row of trees set out three years ago.  I brought the Bolens and the cart loaded with all the sundry tools and equipment needed.

I was tired by the end of the day.  The sound of the Bolens’ firing up, signaling a willingness to haul my sorry self home, was welcome.  I began the journey, was in a complete stupor, when a trailer wheel passed me, bouncing, careening across the field.  ‘My!’ I thought, watching it roll away, ‘where’d that come from?’

The crash behind me woke me from my daze, answering the question.  Mowers, line, clippers, shovels, levers and you name it cascaded to the ground.  The toolbox spilled.  The axle dug in and bent.

There was plenty of time to think while I fetched everything needed for repairs.  I had to jack the trailer up ― both sides ― remove the other wheel, dismount the axle and bring it to the garage to straighten.  That gave me even more time for pondering.

I turned a sleeve to temporarily replace the faulty bearing that had let me down ― literally.  (Tell me again:  Why didn’t I replace all four bearings with new ones when I made the cart?)  That took another 45 minutes.  Then, of course, I had to reassemble before driving back to the barn and putting everything away.

It was well after eight o’clock by the time I made it to the house and walked into the kitchen.  My wife was reading the paper.  There’d been more than enough time to reach a conclusion.  “You know, Wendy, I’m not too bright.”

“You’re just discovering that?” she asked, turning, smiling.  “What happened?”

I told her the story and explained why I was so worried.  “That wheel rolled past me and all I could do was wonder, ‘Where’d that come from’?”  I shook my head.  “Aduh!  I’m in the middle of our own field.”  I waved my arms around indicating the empty space within which somehow surrounded me, too.  “Where else did I imagine that wheel came from?”

“It’s okay, honey,” she reassured me.  “Really.  This is nothing new.  You’ve never been all here.”

I had even more time for reflection as I trudged upstairs to take a shower.

I just hate it when she’s right.