It was a hot, sunny day much like today when I realized there are times that I am a complete clod. It was a Sunday morning, and I was out on our riding lawn mower, virtuously mowing the back yard, which we refer to as the “back forty” because of its large size. The back forty is about 60 percent weeds, but they’re green weeds, so we mow them. There are no trees whatsoever on the west and north sides, the south side is bordered by our house, and along the east side is a thicket of black locust trees, some of which are extremely tall.
We had put a tire swing for the kids on a sturdy branch on one of the locust trees. They were still pretty little, so it hung about 3 feet off the ground. I was mowing my way from west to east, north to south. I was barely paying attention to what I was doing; instead, I was enjoying the fresh air, the sunshine, and the feeling of doing an outdoor chore that I don’t normally do. The mower was roaring happily along, chomping weeds, cutting grass, bumping over ruts, and spewing clods of clippings out one side. I was concentrating on distributing the cuttings evenly more than anything else, I suppose.
The sun was in my eyes despite my baseball cap and sunglasses, and there I was, putting steadily along, when I decided to make a couple of passes along the east side, which was in shade, to get a little relief from the heat. I rumbled down the farthest edge, did a little figure 8 to turn around and headed back along the east side. I was looking out towards the center of the yard, vaguely estimating how much more time it would take to finish the lawn, when it dawned on me that I wasn’t making much forward progress.
I looked down next to the mower to see if I was stuck in a rut somehow. Nothing next to the back tires, although they weren’t moving forward much. I looked at where the front tires were supposed to be. They weren’t there. In shock, I looked upwards a little, and noticed that my front tires were slowly but surely rising into the air.
Holy crap! I grabbed the steering wheel, and, peering through the sweat running into my eyes, through my steamy sunglasses, and under the brim of my cap, I traced the front of the mower upwards. For some dumb*ss reason, I had not turned the mower off or into neutral, no, it was still attempting to move me forward. Into the air. Because I had absentmindedly driven straight into the tire swing, which had neatly snagged the front end of the mower, and the more the back tires tried to propel me forward, the further out the tire swing went, pulling the front end of the mower higher and higher into the air.
Holy crap, again! I leaped off the mower, unscrambled my feet and lurched out of the way so I wouldn’t get my feet chopped off by the mower blades. My legs were shaking as I watched the mower grind its way to perpendicular much more swiftly, now that it wasn’t hampered by my weight. My mouth was hanging open, just for a second, and then some brain cell finally fired, and I reached over and turned the mower off.
I stood there, dripping sweat and curse words with equal ferocity for a minute or so, then unhooked the tire swing from the mower. I managed to get the mower back down to the ground without damage to me or to it, and then stomped inside.
My husband innocently asked, “Done already?”
“No,” I replied, “don’t ask.”
I poured myself a cup of coffee, sat down at the dining room table and silently bitched myself out for being a total idiot. I lay my head down on the table and said aloud, “I can’t believe what a total dork I am.” My husband had ambled into the kitchen and overheard me.
“What happened?” he asked.
“OK,” I said, “I guess I can tell you now, and we can both have a good laugh at me. I just want you to know, before I get any further, that I’m fine, so is the mower, and there are only a couple of new ruts in the back forty.”
His eyebrows lifted in surprise, and he sat down at the other end of the table. He gave me a speculative look. “Ooooookaaaaaaay,” he said, “ what happened?” I opened my mouth to explain when the totally ridiculous nature of the entire event hit me. What must I have looked like to anyone observing? Just sitting there, stupidly staring off to the side as my mower was slowly being pulled vertically? What kind of a picture would that have made for anyone, calmly sitting on their back patio, having a relaxing cup of coffee, maybe reading the paper, still in their bathrobe, slippers on their feet, thinking only ordinary Sunday morning thoughts?
I started snickering. Then I snorted, and then I let loose with a serious belly laugh. Tears started forming in my eyes, and I kept laughing. I still hadn’t told my husband a thing, and he had a look of alarm mixed with humor on his face, but he waited patiently. I got myself under control and explained it to him, occasionally interrupting myself with hoots and snorts of laughter.
He started laughing, too. I gave it the full humor treatment from start to finish, and at the end of the story, he and I were both doubled over, holding our stomachs, laughing like hyenas, swiping tears from our eyes.
He asked, “Does the mower still work?”
“I’m pretty sure it will,” I said, “it was running just fine when I got it down from the tree.” Which set both of us off again. We both went outside to make sure the mower would still run, and it did. He slapped me on the back and offered to finish up the back yard for me, but I refused.
“I think this is one of those times when I ought to get right back on the horse that threw me, so to speak,” I said.
He grinned and said, “OK. This time….”
I grinned back and said, “Yeah, I know,” and I rumbled off on the mower, neither of us worse for wear. I did finish the yard. Horizontally, of course. But whenever I get to thinking I know what I’m doing and I’m just the cat’s meow at something, a little imp in my head will send me a quick flashback snapshot of that mower heading for the sky, and it reminds me that no matter how confident I may be of my ability to do something, it would probably be a good idea to pay attention.