The only lawn mower I ever used was a hand-pushed gizmo with a rotary blade that chopped the grass around our swing set in the front yard. Liking thinks neat and tidy, I also raked the grass into rows. Then I’d clear the yard by picking up the grass, along with the leaves and sticks wind blew from the trees.
Dad needed me to rake in the hayfield when I was ten. I had the general idea from what I’d done in the yard, and was glad that Dad did the mowing so I wouldn’t have to go near that dangerous sickle.
I drove the Oliver tractor. That tractor was ancient—it was old when Mom rode it down the lane early on the morning I entered the world. The control buttons had broken, so to put it into gear the driver worked with a metal lever. I often stood for leverage.
The first time I drove the Oliver I mowed down ten fence posts while trying to turn a corner on the meadow southwest of Orchard.
My brother bears a scar from when he sliced his hand on the metal controls. Once I gained the knack for steering, I liked to trip the rope and create windrows of mown hay, which Dad expected to be straight.
Putting up hay took a joint effort. Dad mowed, I raked, and around age ten, my brother drove against the windrow and swept hay into the loader of the B John Deere. He’d lift the bucket, drive it to the mound, and raise it to Dad where he shaped hay into a stack without a cage. He was well-known in the county for that ability.
I loved the fragrance of new-mown hay, and the euphoria of interacting with a product of the land that would feed cattle during the coming winter. My takeaway from the hayfields were blisters and sunburn, but I was pleased with the results of tripping the rope over and over again to shape those straight windrows.
During summer especially, I preferred being outside over household chores.