Amanda Hopper Writes

A writer's tale of living and working in the country.

Month: June 2011

Cage Fighting

Have you ever tried to wrestle with Mother Nature?
I’m not talking about your war with crabgrass in a pristine planned community, I mean actually hacking at the prickly vines trying to strangle you while simultaneously scanning the ground for poisonous snakes that are camouflaged by the very thing you are trying to destroy? It’s like her back-up plan: if the human makes it past round one, program in a kill switch with hidden monsters.
I really had no concept of how difficult it would be to clear raw land. Correction, clear and maintain said clearing. Making the path isn’t so hard, shiny new tractors make it easy in fact, it’s what happens after one rain and the lapse of a week’s time. That beautifully manicured clearing you made is no where to be found beneath the poison ivy, cacti, and nearly fatal locus thorns.
It’s not just the menacing plant life that is seeking to retake what you thought you won, the animals are in on it too. Cute little bunnies find ways to get around your fence to eat your flourishing garden. You are assaulted by kamikaze grasshoppers with every step outside, and you find yourself growling as you watch them eat your rose bushes.
Even your cows betray you, after you hand delivered their hay in knee-high snow, by seeking greener pastures after one wind storm drops a branch on the fence.
Mother Nature does provide a constant show for your viewing pleasure though; painted lady caterpillars hatching into painted lady butterflies, the road runner that races down my drive each morning, a young deer playing tag with our dog Missy, and of course the wildflowers: like a bouquet from God himself.
Along with the pretty sights, there are the ugly sights too; daily sightings of snakes whipping across the road as you try your best to drive over them but always fail, the lonely tarantula meandering across the rocky terrain, and the raging war with wasps trying to make every square inch of your house their personal mud hut.
We only have a small parcel of this earth to tame, but in this cage fight with Mother Nature, we seem to be pulling a Rocky move by hanging on and hoping she gets tired.
Texas Tarantula

Wildflowers before Andy murdered them.

Humming Bird Clearwing Moth in my flower.

Baby birds that hatched on my porch, I think they are Barn Swallows. 

Just Right

Remember the story of Goldilocks?
Remember the choices she had to make while trying the three chairs and the three beds?
Now insert me for Goldilocks, and tractors for the beds, and you will have a clear picture of my week…
Seeing your lawn mower engulfed in smoke is a bad thing. Not the dust that follows dry weather and still-in-transition grass…real smoke.
Andy called mower shops far and wide until he found one that worked on riding lawn tractors. After finding one the next town over, we believed mowing would commence again in a week’s time.
Until the call came.
“You want the good news or the bad news first?” the shop owner asked.
“Good.” Andy’s reply.
“Your mower’s broke.”
“That’s the good news? How broke?” Andy inquired.
“Gonna have to rebuild the engine.”
“What’s the bad news?” Andy questioned hesitantly.
“This tractor’s engine ain’t big enough to handle the work you do on that land.” the mechanic advised.
It should come as no surprise that Andy had already picked out a new tractor before he ever mentioned this conversation to me. Do you know what it’s like trying to talk a man out of a tractor when he has already named the thing?
Impossible.
“Let’s just go test drive it and see.” he persuaded me.
“How do you test drive a tractor?” I inquired.
“They have a fenced area with piles of dirt and rocks where you can work the front loader and test the traction.” he offered.
My left eyebrow raised of it’s own free will as a smile stretched across his face.
How do you say no to a grown man whose face looks like your 5-year-old son on Christmas morning?
You can’t.
You go tractor shopping.
And if you’re like me, you nod a lot while the salesman talks, not really understanding a dang word that man is saying. But you don’t want to seem stupid, so you kick the mammoth tires, and ask about the warranty. And when you get back in the truck, you convince your other half to at least go talk to the other dealers in town before signing the contract in blood right there and then.
The truth eventually came out… he didn’t involve me to help decide IF we were getting a new tractor, just how big the new tractor would be. See, if you want your wife to mow, she has to be able to reach the pedals.
So while I hovered around the sub-compact model that was only slightly larger than the one being held hostage by our mechanic, Andy couldn’t stop staring at the “papa bear” tractor equipped with hazard lights, seat belt and roll bar.
“Why do you need a seat belt on a tractor?” I asked out-loud to myself.
Then I suddenly had visions of Ian in high school, engaging in a game of tractor-chicken reminiscent of Footloose.
John Deere Chicken Race
Maybe we should be looking for some sort of personal cage instead of a seat belt…
I did my duty as the practical one in the relationship, forced him to do research, and argued that the smaller tractor would suffice. Andy did his part as the creative one in the relationship, giving me all kinds of reasons why bigger was better, and provided pictures of the shiny implements and accessories that could make the new tractor the answer to all our problems for the next 100 years.
On the day of delivery, pounding reminiscent of an elephant stampede rumbled through the house as the trailer pulling our new tractor drove through the gate. Boys of all sizes seem inexplicably drawn to the thing.
Fear is what holds my attention.
But as I gaze at Ian holding a tiny toy tractor in his hand staring at the giant orange monster in the pasture, I imagine (to him) it’s like Grant finally succeeded in making that Gigantisizer 2000 and all of his dreams have come true…
Personally, I’m quite fond of the cruise control.