Thursday, June 26, 2014

I think my tractor's sexy!

     I spent several hours on my Kubota tractor last week, mowing grass in my pasture and down by my pond. I loved every sweaty minute of it.
My tractor is about 12 years old. It’s beginning to show its age, having sustained several scrapes and dents due to my driving. Sometimes I’m hell on wheels when I get on that thing. The first couple of times I tried to mow the weeds on my trails, I got off the trails trying to maneuver the cutter and became trapped in a tight space. I had to have someone come get me out. I’ve knocked the pier loose from its moorings at the pond, scraped trees, pulled up fence posts, torn fences and put a hole in the back wall of the shed where I park the tractor. 
Matias likes my tractor, too.
My most recent escapade was last week. I had the tractor down by the pond when the mail carrier came by. So I put my mail in my bucket and drove back up the hill, intending to put the mail on my porch. I’m easily distracted, though. So along the way I decided to push some dead tree branches off the trail through my front “yard,” the latter being  a euphemism for the scruffy area in front of my house. I noticed something whitish in the pile. 
“Hmm,” I thought to myself. “Maybe I’ve discovered where Maggie buried my butter dish.” It wasn’t until I got off the tractor and reached into the bucket to retrieve my mail that I realized I had dumped it out and pushed it into the pile of dead branches.      The “whitish” item was the box containing two copies of the photo book of my trip to Spain. I spent 26 hours and $40 each (plus shipping) making those darned books.  Now the back of each one is broken.
When I was shopping for a tractor, the late Charles Fouts of Fouts Tractor here in Ashville came out and looked at my property. He recommended a package that included a 32-hp tractor with hydrostatic transmission, rotary cutter, box blade and front-end loader or bucket, as I call it. I told him I didn’t think I needed the bucket. He replied, “Elaine, you’ll use that more than any other implement.” And he was so right. 
It comes in handy for mucking horse stalls, unloading heavy stuff from my pickup and cleaning out gutters, if the person helping me clean doesn’t mind being hoisted eight feet into the air. I sold the box blade last week, and we used the bucket to lift it out of the barn and onto the buyer’s flatbed trailer. It’s great for pushing dead limbs into a pile or carrying them to another part of the woods. Ditto for rocks I pick up in the pasture.
But the best use so far was getting my left front wheel out of a hole I encountered in my pasture a couple of years ago. I simply pushed down with the bucket, which lifted the tractor enough for me to roll out of the hole. When I got off the tractor and examined the spot that had trapped me, I discovered it was a sink hole several feet and two levels deep. I  filled it with rocks, an old tire, bent wire that was lying around, and a bucket full of loose gravel leftover from a previous project.
“Sexy” may not be the best word to describe my tractor, but it sure gives me lots of cheap thrills.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Snakes Alive!

Phillip displays velvet-tip rattlesnake.

Living in the middle of the woods, you’re bound to encounter a few snakes. Yet I’ve seen surprisingly few in the 13 years I’ve been here. When I do come across one, my inclination is to leave it alone. Live and let live, so to speak. 

However, when Phillip B., a former tenant, and I discovered a velvet tail rattler under a tarp near my shed a couple of years ago, I decided he was too close to where the grandsons would be playing. So I asked Phillip to put him out of my (sic) misery.  Same thing with the nest of copperheads he found in my pond last year while cleaning out the cattails. 

The other morning as I was headed to the barn to feed my critters, I encountered what a first glance told me was a harmless black racer stretched out on a step in my retaining wall. He was as long as the step was wide, but not particularly large or menacing. “Hello there, fella,” I  addressed him, hoping he was the friendly sort. He didn’t answer back, at least not at first.
Poppa and Momma Copperheads found in my pond.
They had five babies in their cattail nest.
Then I noticed he wasn’t black all over, but had a yellow and black underbelly. The next thing that caught my attention was his tail, because he began to shake it at me.  Later, I discovered that many snakes try to mimic the sound of a rattlesnake to scare their enemies. At the time, all I could think of was a rattlesnake. I calmly turned around and walked back to the house for my camera and my George stick, which is what my former tenant, a Cherokee Indian, called the walking stick he used to traverse my trails. “George” was his euphemism for “snake.” But by the time I got back to my steps, George was gone. 
I guess he just didn’t feel like having his photo blasted all over the internet.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I'm My Own Grandpa

In 1947, a hillbilly duo named Lonzo & Oscar recorded a whimsical song entitled, "I'm My Own Grandpa." The convoluted story, which was later recorded by Ray Stevens and Willie Nelson, began when a man of 23 married a widow with a grown daughter. The daughter married the man's father. They had a child, who would be both the man's grandson and brother at the same time. You have to drop the “step” before most of the relationships, but the song does demonstrate how it is humanly possible to become one's own grandfather.
Paw-Paw (B.E. Edwards) 1984
I didn't have to go through all of that to realize that I'm becoming my grandfather. All I had to do was open a drawer in my kitchen and discover a trove of twisty ties.
Paw-Paw was my mother's daddy, and he lived to be 90. When he died in 1987, mom and I had to go through his possessions and clean out his house. It was in a kitchen drawer that I discovered his collection of twisty ties. Most folks are familiar with these little plastic, bendable "strings" that often come on bread wrappers. You can also buy them in rolls, although the only places I've ever found them are at garage sales and flea markets. They come in handy to close potato chip bags and bind lengthy cords on electric appliances, such as hand mixers, too. I rarely throw one away, but recycle it for another use. 
My grandfather had a drawer full of those little plastic ties. It looked like there were hundreds of them. He must have saved every one he had ever found. Why, I don't know. Perhaps he thought there was going to be another world war and twisty ties would be rationed along with flour and sugar.
Recently, I lifted the plastic cutlery organizer out of a kitchen drawer to discover my own collection of twisty ties. Although it wasn't nearly as extensive in size or color as his, it  made me think of Paw-Paw, whom I adored, and it gave me a laugh. 
Some women lament that they are becoming their mothers. Leave it to me to turn into my grandfather.