Not stoppin’ untill the job is done

Published 11:30 am Thursday, September 14, 2023

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If checking our smartphones is the most addictive thing in the world, I’m willing to bet that the second is finishing mowing one’s yard…

And if you live on a small lot that takes ten minutes to scalp, or, even better, live on a wooded lot that requires no mowing, then count yourself lucky that you’ve never experienced that center-of-your-chest yearning to complete the job regardless of distractions.

Our driveway bisects two fields. The one on the left is four acres and the one on the right is just shy of ten. Both are punctuated by mature oaks and poplars and take, in total, 5 hours to mow. The smaller field by itself can be done in no time on our ‘zero-turn’ rocket, catapulting over the ground like a high-powered go-kart. However, it’s the larger field that, once I’m committed to the job, donning a big, floppy hat, shorts and rubber boots (oh, yeah, that’s a weird tan line—there’s nothing quite as attractive as two short lengths of sunburn on legs that already look like drainpipes), there is nothing that’s going to stop me. Nothing. Because once the bush hog has sliced its first, neat path through the overgrown grass, its manicured appearance has to continue, no matter how long it takes.

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Beginning early, while most of the field is still in shade, there is a damp freshness to the air and as I rumble over the field, ducking beneath low-hanging branches of trees that must be encircled before rejoining the last line mowed around the perimeter. Often I will see deer emerging shyly from the woods before quickly retreating, or hear the shriek of a hawk wheeling overhead. It’s the closest thing to practicing zen and being completely in the moment that I will experience for the next four hours.

I check my Apple watch which, absorbing every bump and jolt through the field, is absolutely certain I’ve been injured as “It looks like you’ve had a fall” the screen reads. “Hit SOS for help or ‘I’m Fine’” After assuring the phone I’m still fine, I’m just constantly being ejected several inches out of the tractor seat each time I hit an old earthen terrace, I squint at both the sun and the time. Coming up to lunch. I’ve mowed about half the field. It looks gorgeous—the way the sun sweeps across the grass now gives it a tender, spring-like gleam. How neat and tidy it’s looking. How crisp are the mowed lines.

It doesn’t matter how much my stomach rumbles. I ain’t stopping.

The sky begins to ominously darken with a low belly of bruised clouds. The air is juicy with humidity and it’s clear that afternoon storms are rolling in. Three-quarters of the field is mowed and now only the bottom which includes a dried creek bed and a tangle of trees remains. I’ve taken too long to mow the field and the grass is particularly tall and will require dropping down a gear. Lightning flashes to my north.

I ain’t stopping.

Despite being jostled as the Kubota and I clatter down a steep hill, I can still feel my back pocket vibrate and I pull out my phone. A text has arrived from Paul, safely ensconced inside the house.

“Big storm cell coming. You need to come in.”

Oh, heck no,” I think, looking up at the handiwork I’ve nearly completed. It would be like giving someone a long overdue haircut, only to leave a big clump uncut just above one ear. It would look ridiculous. Scruffy.

And I ain’t stopping.

I ignore more frequent lightning strikes and the crash of thunder. The sky is black now and the wind has picked up, cooling me off beautifully. This, alone, is worth continuing. I’m now making the final tight circles to the left, the sky lighting up in a fury—it’s like racing at Bristol.

Peripherally I can make out Paul standing on top of the hill, waving his arms like a windmill, trying to get my attention. I pretend I can’t see him, put the Kubota in high gear and fly the final circuits until finished. As I mount the hill I meet his glare, his own expression like thunder.

“Can you not SEE?” he yells, pointing heavenward. “There is lightning everywhere! On what planet is it safe to be driving around in a big, metal machine in a storm?”

I mumble sorry, look suitably chastened but glance to my left with a small smile.


The field looks gorgeous. And it’s finished.