October, the month of Halloween and Trick-or-Treat, began here in my valley with a long spell of cold autumn rains on leaf-littered lawns. Finally today the sun is out and the skies are blue; it's a good day, I tell myself, for mowing lawn. I go out to check the tractor, noticing the leaves and grasses still seem wet. I sit up on the tractor and begin to think about a day some years ago:
That day had been much later in the season, and the mowing was to be the last 'til spring. Like today, it had followed a cold and rainy spell that turned into a sudden, splendid stretch of bright and sunny skies.
Never one to lose advantage of a window of fine weather, I started my tractor up, and soon I was engrossed in a favorite occupation---mowing lawn.
My valley floor was dressed in 40 shades of gold, all of which had fallen from the forest that surrounded me. As I worked, I had a fleeting vision in my mind of Tom Sawyer telling his friends, "If you're havin' fun doin' a thing, it ain't work."
Somewhere along the way, I really had convinced myself that mowing wasn't work, and when it came to my faithful little John Deere tractor, I had long since ceased to share the reins with anybody else. Like a favorite car, I looked at that machine with some affection, and sometimes even called him by his name.
When John Deere and I that day began to mow the lawns in front, things went smoothly, as they always do; we were feeling fine and in our element together...
I drove my trusty tractor to the land behind the house, a place where trees rise tall and I can see and hear the creek below. There the pleasure of my "work" was dampened only slightly when I ran into a large, aggressive cloud of Asian lady beetles. They settled on my clothes and hair and skin like noxious freckles, but I ignored them and continued mowing. All was still harmonious in the world of Rose and her buddy John Deere.
I started down a shallow slope that leads to lower tiers of lawn, and the tractor went beserk! The unseen ground beneath the leaves and heavy grass had turned to grease as slick as oil on a roadway. John Deere's brakes were fruitless; his steering was useless; he careened in frantic circles... We missed one tree and then another; and all too swiftly we were heading for a drop-off high above the creek...
I gained control---just barely---but my poor John Deere was not forgiven. As if he were a living animal---a mule perhaps---I scolded as I led him firmly to the barn, where I told him, "You can sit 'til spring, for all I care!" Perhaps it was unfair to blame the little tractor, but my John Deere was never one to argue.
NOW IN THIS October 2010, John Deere may be older but he hasn't lost a thing. We treat him carefully, out of respect for the old soldier he is. He has his own special barn. He even has a snowblower which soon will be re-attached for yet another winter, and for that task his partner is my husband.
Year-round now, Old John sports weights on his wheels and has bigger tires with heavier treads. "I think you could take that hill today, " I told him as I turned the key, and his diesel engine fired up with vigor; we were ready.
I looked again at the wetness of the lawn and leaves and changed my mind. "Let things dry out for another day," I told him.
As I killed the engine, I heard a sigh, and I had to wonder. "Was your sigh a statement of relief, Old John? Or was it disappointment?"