Abby Clark, the heroine in Baer Truth has a funny incident with a tractor in the book. I've had a couple of readers ask me if that was based on personal experience. No, I replied, confident in my tractor driving ability. And while I never had a similar incident happen, I have had some rather interesting moments on a tractor.
As a teen, I helped bale hay, feed horses, and all that goes with farming. Since I was younger, I usually got the grunt work of any job, like being in the barn loft on a hot August day stacking hay bales, but I rarely got to drive the tractor. I parked it in the barn, moved it for various reasons and that was about it.
Moving forward in time -- As a young mom I was offered a job mowing area fields and roadsides by a local farmer, I'll call Bill. I did know how to drive a tractor and how hard could mowing be? It really was a great job. I could mow when I wanted, he paid me cash, and if I needed to go home to the kids, no problem.
Bill's idea of instruction was, "here's the tractor, it's full of fuel, flip this lever to engage the PTO and mow." With that, he went to his tractor and left me in the middle of a 400-acre field.
Alright, I could do this. Starting the tractor, I got that, using the clutch, that was a cinch, engaging the PTO, no problem, the circling of a tree – I so didn't get that. I didn't pay any attention to that 7-foot wide bush hog trailing along behind me and it didn't exactly flow around a tree.
I must have taken the lives of twenty trees with that bush hog before I realized what I'd done. Every new little sapling that had been lovingly planted were now only tiny spots of mulch in a vast field of grass. When Bill came back to get me to break for lunch he stood beside those little spots of mulch, looked at me and said, "don't you know how to square off with a tractor?" Then he looked across the field I'd mowed (well, only 1/3 of it was mowed) and said. "Are you drinking or on something?"
I was aghast. "No! Why would you even think such a thing?"
"Get off your tractor, stand here, and look down that field." Well, there wasn't a straight row of mowed grassed to be found. It seemed I was "tacking" to the right, and mowing in a very nice 90 degree arc. Bill shook his head, snorted and said. "Remind me to never let you plant my corn."
The next day, (farming sense of humor here) he brought several other farmers to get a look at my field – before they went to the local and only store for coffee. They were all having a good laugh. I told them I was being creative and making crop circles, got on my tractor and mowed.
A few days later, we were mowing the roadsides of some rural roads. My Walkman (yes, I'm that old) was blaring in my ears, the sun was shining, and suddenly my tractor slowly sank off the side of the road. With an ugly hissing sound, it sank farther until there was; well the only way it can be described is a really loud, wet, juicy fart. I'd hit a patch of brush with locust trees. Locust trees have some mighty long, hard, and nasty thorns. Well, I popped one of those huge rear tires on the tractor. We had to call for the "farm tractor tire" service to come fix it. One bonus, I'd popped that tire in front of a really sweet neighbors house and we had lemonade and cookies till the tire guy got there. Then her husband came out of the barn, looked at me and started laughing, realizing I was the "crooked mower woman." He patted Bill on the back and wished him luck.
We have a Renaissance Faire in the area where I live and we mowed the field where they park cars for the faire. Another huge 200-acre field of scrub inhabited by rabbits, groundhogs and big-a** snakes. As I was mowing along, Walkman on, I saw this huge 100-foot long snake travel in front of my tractor.
Now, if there'd been a video camera around this would have been worthy of the ten grand. I'm on a big tractor, pulling a huge bush hog, roughly ten-feet above the ground. When I see this Anaconda (it seriously looked that big) I jumped to my feet on the tractor seat, screaming like a scalded dog. Bill came crashing across the field thinking I'd been swarmed by bees or was having a seizure. I'm screaming, "Snake, Snake!"
He points to my bush hog and says, "Run over the damn thing."
I'm still screaming, shaking my head no, so he makes a pass in front of me and misses the snake. This thing's head pops up, it's hissing, and jumping, my screaming gets louder, as I am sure this snake on steroids is going to seek me out and bite me, squeeze me or whatever those wretched things do.
At this point, my tractor is plotting its own course across the field, with me standing on the seat screaming, and Bill is swiping back and forth trying to bush hog this snake, who is fighting him like a ticked off bull in a Madrid bull fight. I came to a clanging stop against a metal farm fence post and was thrown off the tractor and into a wet, gunk-filled ditch where a pack of hungry blood sucking mosquitoes and chiggers attack as though I was their last meal.
By now, performers and vendors at the faire were in the field thinking someone was being killed, Bill was making made circles in the field his head snapping around like it was on a stick and I was trying to climb over the fence and shut off the tractor.
On second thought, maybe Abby's tractor experience is a bit more personal then I realized.