Lapinel Arts

 

Story Archive

Cwazy Wabbit!

 

One of the most tedious chores on the farm was mowing the fields for hay. I’d have to decide whether the weather forecast was safe of rain for three days and I’d have to start mowing after the morning dew had dried. Rain always seemed to like to smother and ruin cut hay. A stop off at Russell’s store would help me with the forecast and the necessary gasoline.

The Russell’s were a friendly family that owned and ran that store forever it seems. They were all tall, thin and sociable but with keen business minds. They wrapped tampons in brown paper so as not to offend folks and they didn’t use any fancy technology for record keeping. Mrs. Russell could have five kids in her store grabbing candy bars and soda pop and though they just waved their items in the air she wouldn’t miss a one. Fast as a whip her hand would fly on the tab sheet so that each family would know what to pay later in the day.

“How’s it looking Mr. Russell?”
Mr. Russell was proud of his skills at forecasting so this, of course, meant a thoughtful pause was required.
After a look down, a look out the window and some more pause Mr. Russell would announce his findings. Today, the weather was favorable.
“Looks like it’s a good day for cutting” he would say as kept busy wrapping, tabulating and doing general store things.
Mr. Russell and their family were mostly right with their predictions.

Then, with gasoline and a forecast I would return home and prepare the tractor and check the blades and their respective guards. “Grease before using” was stated on a tag stuck on the mower…I complied. We owned a side arm six foot swath mower for cutting the endless fields of hay. This mower functioned like a six foot pair of scissors; very effective but extremely dangerous for anything in its path.

Then I’d hook up the mower and gas up the tractor for the day. Additional gas might be needed later but I could get that at lunchtime. I’d grab my beat up farmer’s hat and the emergency tools to bang on the tractor if she misbehaved.

Cutting the hay meant mowing for hours in the heat of the day. Cutting too early and with the dew still present meant moldy hay that could kill a horse. As an aside, I always thought it odd that cows could handle moldy hay better than horses but whenever a farmer had moldy hay he would call it horse hay. Guess that comes from living in Dairy country.

The hay lots were large and intimidating. Some of the terrain was more difficult because of intruding stone wall fences and mounds of woodchuck holes. I didn’t look forward to this tedious venture or the loneliness that was a one man job.

After getting to the field I would sit on the tractor with the engine shut and stare up the hill at the field of grass. This was my ocean. Wave after wave of breeze would bend the tall grass into a beautiful orchestra of motion. I’d close my eyes and feel the breeze and I could almost smell the salt that wasn’t there.

Work had to start so then I’d select the shape I was going to mow then start the counterclockwise direction one round then flip for the remaining rows. Working close to the stonewall fence and low lying tree limbs made for a slow first round.

While mowing, I’d watch for rocks, wet grass, limbs and the dreaded woodchuck holes. Hitting a woodchuck hole just right would usually damage the steering shaft… a hundred dollar repair.

After the first couple of rounds I’d start to get a rhythm for the mowing and the turns and I’d drift into a zone of automated activity. The chug of the mower and the tractor cylinders would create a beat that would unavoidably stir a need to sing.

So I’d continue mowing, getting hotter with time and belting out songs to the rhythm of the tractor. Singing and the occasional mishap or chuck hole was my only sanctuary from boredom. While the songs were quite entertaining to me I was glad no one could ever hear them past the noise of the machinery. I knew though, and looked forward to the real fun that would start as I closed in on the last third of the job.

As the remaining grass stand became more constricted the animals would start to dart out from hiding. First the deer, if any, would exit with stealth only after I passed a section. I’d have to keep looking behind me to see if I flushed one. Snakes would slither away and burrow into the downed grass. Rabbits though, they were the prize of all hidden creatures.

I absolutely loved watching the rabbits ready to bolt from the edge of the remaining grass while planning their dart for freedom past the now open terrain. Sometimes I’d have to slow down with the brakes and a down throttle but usually they would take off in a timely fashion and zig zag, hop, twist and turn like a football player gone crazy. They would continue through half the field then stop and watch. Usually by the next time I passed that area they would finish bounding off. The exhibition of acrobatics was worth the time in the seat of this now hot, tractor. You see, rabbits cannot stand being all exposed in a big open field. We had plenty of nesting Red Tailed Hawks near that field and the danger was very real.

Soon, my ultimate favorite part of mowing would begin. As I neared the finish there would inevitably be at least one or two baby rabbits that weren’t capable of crossing the new grand expanse in a safe fashion. The red tailed hawks were watching and circling. I would hear their distinct call if it weren’t for the deafening tractor noise.

Today was a hot one though. No water and constant heat pounding on my head and body made me a little less prepared for the baby rabbit rescue. The skin starts to itch with the heat of my own sweat and the scratches from the tree limbs on that first round. Salty sweat starts to blur my vision but I have to keep on cutting.

Finally…a baby going for broke. No zig zags or even zigs…just a baby stumbling clumsily on the newly mown grass but with an occasional sprint and sharp turn.

I’d shut off the tractor and usually I could just run over, grab the rabbit and take it to wooded cover without problem but this baby was a little older and had a lot of spunk. I think I had a lot less spunk because of the heat. Anyway it was a more equal battle than usual.

I tried to grab her with my hands but she was quick with her turns and knew just where to stop to remain out of reach. I tried again and again until the fun was getting lost. I needed that rabbit out of there so I could finish mowing. It was so hot!

I took off my work shirt to use it as a trap for the rabbit. I held it above my head as I dove repeatedly into the grass trying to cover and hold the rabbit. This seemed to take forever but finally, after many diving attempts I caught her and brought her close for inspection.

Just then, I also noticed my parent’s car down below on the road about a hundred yards away. How odd for them not to have driven up. Usually they would get there and deliver gas, food and water but this time they stayed in the car, on the road and seemed to be watching me. I was a little concerned with this unusual stop of theirs so I jogged down to greet them with the rabbit still bundled in my shirt.

As I approached the car I noted the odd, curious looks and my father quickly got out of the car and asked if I was feeling fine. I told them of course I was as I showed them the rabbit.

With relief in their faces they then confessed. They thought I had gone nuts from the heat and they were trying to figure out how best to take care of me. All they could see while watching me was their overheated and red looking son running around like a crazy boy with a shirt in the air and jumping all over the ground for no apparent reason.

They took the rabbit, I took my supplies and I walked back up to finish mowing. I hoped that I wouldn’t flush any more crazy rabbits…I didn’t know who else might be watching.