I’ve started mowing the fields. Very late this year, due to a series of calamities and necessary service adjustments that put my essential vehicle in the tractor hospital for several months (“supply-chain issues”): a leaky hydraulic hose, worn tires, and a–not-required, but I thought wise–thorough going-over at her coming-of-age twenty-first birthday anniversary. (I poured myself a drink when she came home, just to celebrate. And checked her radiator fluid to make sure she was well-hydrated too.)
She’s laughably small beer when it comes to real farming (a 29HP New Holland), but she does the job for me, and we’ve come to understand each other over the years. I’m very respectful of her rather unyielding idiosyncrasies and her sometimes snappish behavior when it comes to changing her implements, and of her occasionally peculiar reactions to my (always civil) requests vis-a-vis steering and direction. In return, she stays vertical, and–so far at least–has kept me whole, unlike poor Mr. Right, who lost half an index finger in an entanglement between our previous (bigger) brush hog and a high-tensile electric fence. Not really the tractor’s fault. But she was there.
(Over the years, I’ve taken dozens of small city children on gentle tractor rides. They’re almost always accompanied by a parental admonition of “be careful, these machines really want to tip over.” And I have to explain, every time that–actually–“these machines want to stay upright. Barring a really freakish and unavoidable circumstance, it’s almost always the fools in charge of them who are responsible for tipping them over.” So far, so good, even when the gears let go that awful day and I went freewheeling down the hill. Very. Scary. Especially starting her up again and getting her back to the top.)
Yesterday, I dismounted the backhoe, hooked up the mower, and took them for a spin in the acre across the road. We bought that acre, which is separate from the other twenty-nine, for only one reason: We wanted to prevent anyone from building a house that close to our own. Even back then (late ’80s), we recognized that ex-urban types who moved to the country for the “space,” very often bought a piece of land of indeterminate size, and then took inordinate care to build their houses on it as close to the nearest existing dwelling as possible. And, antisocial types that we were, we wanted to pre-empt that.
So there I was, yesterday afternoon, mowing away regardless–or irregardless as the case may be–and apropos of nothing, I started to hum, and then sing, One Man Went To Mow :
One man went to mow
Went to mow a meadow
One man and his dog**
Went to mow a meadow.
Two men went to mow
Went to mow a meadow
Two men, one man and his dog
Went to mow a meadow.
Lather, rinse, repeat for as many men (but only one dog) as you like.
This–of course–put me in mind of Ten Green Bottles, and then–one I learned later in life–99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. I see, in looking that one up on YouTube that there are now a number of bowderlerized, non-triggering, child-safe versions of “99 Bottles of Pop on the Wall.” Crimenutely. Is nothing sacred?
Having made it through all of those–in the case of “99 Bottles of Beer,” considerably more coherently than the guy in Midnight Run), and relieved that even at the advanced age of 67 I still seem to be able to count both up and down, at least in terms of whole numbers, I searched the cubby-holes of my mind and started on Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At. Not a “counting” song like the others, but another of those jolly sing-alongs so loathed by Mr. Right, who always attributed his dislike of songs with roaring and repetitive leitmotifs to his having been born and grown up three floors above a bar on Pittsburgh’s South Side, and lying awake at all hours of the night listening to the drunks downstairs mangling their way through “How Much is that Doggie in the Window.” My family, and even his children, loved them, though, and they got us through many a long car ride and some difficult times over the years.
I ran out of songs about the same time I finished mowing and–hot and sweaty–came inside for a cold drink. I’ve never been a pop/soda drinker, but occasionally I really crave something ice-cold and sweet. So I took some of my homemade lemon syrup out of the fridge, put a slug in the bottom of a glass, and filled it up with fizzy water.
“That’s odd,” I thought to myself. “Where did all those bits of grass come from?” Because the glass was full of bits of green (and other) stuff. I figured they must have shaken out of my hair, or off my clothes, but there were so many of them I poured it away, reached into the fridge for the syrup, and started again. That’s when I realized that, instead of the bottle of lemon syrup, I’d picked up the similarly-sized and shaped bottle of Panera’s lemon salad dressing, and that the bits of what I thought were hay were actually flakes of dried basil and bits of Parmesan cheese…Good grief.
Never. Get. Old.
Fortunately Sadly, we had strong thunderstorms and about 3/4″ of rain overnight. So mowing is off today. No worries, there’s plenty else to do. I’d gladly get started if only I could think of a song to go with.
Do you have a favorite childhood sing-along song? One you’ve never forgotten, and still makes you smile? Please share.
** I did not take the dog (now eight months old and over 100lbs) with me. Odo, heavy motorized equipment, and a field full of small, running animals (I mow very slowly to give them a chance to get out of the way. And they do) is a recipe for certain disaster of one sort or another.