When my boys were born I realized how different males were from females when they were about two years old and started making engine sounds. They made engine sounds for everything. Eating? Sound of cars pushing food around their plates. Bathing? Sound of motor boats as they slid their hands through the suds. Walking? Sounds of trucks as they trotted up and down the grocery store aisles. Sleeping? No sounds, but that was the only time.
I bought a couple of well-seasoned horses when the boys were in school. I figured we could ride together and bond. The boys never really grew fond of trotting or cantering, but if Joe brought out the four-wheeler or offered them the chance to steer the truck in the field, they were all over it. As Justin once said, “Mom, you never know what a horse is going to do, but a four-wheeler won’t dump you off.”
I beg to differ. I have been dumped by a lawn mower. A horse wants to stay upright as much as I do, but a lawn mower doesn’t care. That’s why, when I drive one on the side of a ten degree slope, I lean as far uphill as possible. This used to keep my mower under control until Joe got me one that cuts off if you lift up off of the seat. Now, the mower stops running whenever I shift my weight, so I’m forced to white knuckle it around the berm of my garden.
I once dated a fellow who loved souped up trucks. He especially loved bucking them across vertical slopes covered in rocks and mud. He invited me to go along for a ride, once. While he was chortling gleefully about the mud spinning out from under our tires and the cow-sized rock we’d just climbed, I was hanging on for dear life saying things like, “Are you sure we should go that way?” and “Look there’s a road. How about we drive on that for a while?”
When I married Joe, I never guessed that he would expose me regularly to motor-induced hazards. For example, feeding hay in the winter involved putting the truck in low range and spinning up across snow that had drifted like ocean swells on the hills. We’d be going along in a comfortable, horizontal track and he would suddenly point the nose of the truck uphill and start digging a path to the top. The whine of the truck and his wife would grow louder as he tried to top the rise, and I tried to get him to turn around and just forget about feeding the cows up there. I have found it comforting to close my eyes when we are exposed to motor-induced dangers. What I can’t see can’t kill me.
Then, one day Joe offered me the chance to go along with him and spread some lime. He made it sound like I would enjoy the beauty of the view from the top of the ridge, but I knew he really just wanted the services of Gate Girl. However, I did want to see some of the vistas he was always telling me about. I probably would have enjoyed the scenery if I had ever opened my eyes.
Yesterday, after cleaning out the chicken house, I asked Joe to help me spread some of the litter and manure. I had put as much in my compost pile as I wanted, and I figured the rest would help grow some grass somewhere. He agreed and when we got halfway down the driveway, Joe put the truck in low range. I knew enough by now to look at him suspiciously. “Where are we going to spread this?” I asked. In answer, he turned the truck towards the tallest hill. “It will do the most good here,” he replied. It’s been raining a lot lately and soon one of my worst nightmares began to take shape. We hung up in foot thick mud on the side of the ridge. “Now, we’ll see what this baby can do,” Joe laughed. “This baby is going to hit you if you don’t let me out,” I replied, but by that time, we had managed to spin our way through the muck to solid ground.
We rode up the hill the rest of the way in silence. My eyes were closed and I was too busy praying for angels to push us up to the top, to engage in frivolous conversation. After Joe and I forked the last bit of manure off onto the shaley ground, Joe climbed back into the truck. I walked down. After years of riding along with him, I knew Joe would bring the truck off of the hill safely. But, he could concentrate better if I wasn’t screaming all the way down.