It’s been a few years since I shared the story of Tink and the riding mower, but I’ll remind you what happened so I can segue into another story of a man and a riding mower.
We were newly married when Tink came home from an errand and found me cutting grass with a Bush Hog-brand, zero turn mower. I’ve been cutting grass since I was 11 when Daddy proudly brought home a fancy blue Sears Roebuck riding mower that even had headlights and lasted 20 years.
Instantly, Tink wanted to take up cutting grass. I don’t know that he had ever cut grass with a riding mower. He came from Los Angeles where he hired someone. I was skeptical about it because, as you probably know, the zero turns (the mowers with handles, not steering wheel) take a little getting used to. He persisted so I showed him how.
“Go over to the side and practice on level ground,” I said. “And whatever you do, don’t try that embankment. It has to be done with a weed eater. It’s very dangerous.”
I started back into the house when I had a sudden, sinking feeling. I turned to look at him and wanted to stop him but, not wanting to damage his ego, I swallowed the words. Then, I prayed that God Almighty would keep him safe. I went down into the front pasture to spray thistle, the bane of my existence. The mower had not been 15 minutes since I’d left Tink that I heard a thunderous commotion and saw Mississippi, the cat, running for his life. Then, silence. No running mower.
He wasn’t hurt, but he had learned a powerful lesson. As soon as I was out of sight, he went for the embankment, lost control, went flying down the hill, jumped the rock wall (breaking off a piece) and flipped the mower. My prayer, I am sure, had saved him. He always says that he was so scared of me that, with a rush of adrenaline, he lifted the huge mower and righted it before I got there.
Kabe Cain, who sells us all our outdoor equipment, always stresses safety. When he delivered a new tractor, he said, “Miss Ronda, always wear your seat belt. If you do and the tractor turns over, you’ll get bumped up but you won’t get killed.” Before I ever turn the key on the tractor, I have my seat belt on. It’s the first thing I do.
When Rodney, my beloved brother-in-law, came to teach me how to bush hog the pasture with the tractor, he took off without his seat belt. I gave him a big lecture on that which he ignored.
I kept having a premonition about the Bush Hog mower turning over with someone on it. Maybe me. So, we brought a commercial mower with roll bar and seat belt. Again, Kabe said, “Always wear your seat belt.” And I do.
The original mower, the one Tink wrecked, we took down to Mama’s house where a friend was staying for a while. His duty was to cut the grass. Mama’s yard is level so I felt that was safe but still I cautioned, “Don’t use the mower to cut that little embankment near the road. Use the weed eater.” I think I said this three to five times.
I don’t know what it is about men, machines and me. No one listens. Sure enough, our friend turned over the mower and got trapped. He was banged up and had a broken finger but by God’s grace, not seriously injured.
“Did you tell him, ‘I told you so’?” Rodney asked.
I shook my head. “No.”
Rodney smiled broadly, thinking wrongly that I had learned better. “That’s good,” he said with nodding approval.
I smiled back ever so sweetly. “But I’m going to,” I winked, “just as soon his finger heals.”
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter. Her column appears Tuesdays.