I think I’ll have my morning coffee on the patio. But not this morning.
It’s foggy, windy and 43 degrees — conditions I would have appreciated in February, but we lose our sense of perspective each spring, don’t we? Even on the Northern Plains we feel entitled to fair weather. Can you imagine how insufferable Floridians must be?
On Monday, I planted the flowers I got from Eve’s Floral in Ashley. Most of the perennials are stretching out after a winter slumber, including yellow tulips that came with the house 22 years ago. But they’re predicting frost on Thursday (yesterday), so we’ll tuck the annuals in before we go to bed.
The tiller is atilt, disassembled on the patio after the installation of new belts and a cable. I’m a little leery of reassembling the thing because the belts I got at Martell’s Carquest in Wishek aren’t exactly the same, and I’ve ordered the factory models that are made of a special alloy of rubber, gold, platinum, sapphires, unicorn spit and extortion.
With the frost a few days away, I may punt and wait for the factory belts because I’m still emotionally scarred from an incident that took place the summer of 1974, when I was working for Tom Heis, southeast of Frederick, S.D. He and I spent one swelteringly hot morning installing new belts on the swather. Miserable, miserable, work, and then, when we started it up, the belts shredded in a cacophonous clatter. Rubber shrapnel everywhere, bouncing off tin. Like bad confetti at a worse parade. Fire in the hole. Tom threw wrenches across the yard and stomped to the house. I don’t think he was a drinking man, but he should have been. My old employer died a few weeks ago at 85. The cause of death was listed as “swather.”
Installing the belts on the tiller was straightforward enough, but the installation of the cable so confounded me that I had to call tech support because the manual was apparently written by macaques in early Greek. I’m not saying the monkeys were drunk when they wrote the manual, but hungover, at least. I’m pretty sure the illustrations were done on an Etch-A-Sketch.
I was caller No. 9. I recharged my phone three times, shaved twice and played a little Animal Crossing while on hold. Actually, I have no idea what Animal Crossing is, I’m just trying to appeal to a younger demographic. Which would be lit. And boss.
When tech support finally answered sometime in the future, if you believe in quantum physics, the guy on the other line talked to me slowly as if I were a 4-year-old or the president of the United States, as if I had no mechanical ability whatsoever. An astute judge of character, that guy. The issue was easily solved when he sent me a picture that should have been in the manual in the first place.
I don’t know if they still give kids those problem-solving spacial aptitude tests as they did an epoch ago when I was a student, but I remember after that test there was some whispering among the faculty about whether my friend Agamemnon and I had any brain wave activity at all, and a sense of wonder that we were able to successfully navigate the hallways between classes. And why was it that we didn’t drool more?
I distinctly remember overhearing my Aunt Carol, a teacher, pointing out all us kids one summer at a family reunion in the Gackle Park, and referring to me as “the slow one.”
But you know, even with the impending frost, the new belts I’m about to shred (with the garden only two-thirds tilled), and the realization that I’m the one who needs a tick collar, this North Dakota spring has me feeling all right. Because I don’t know any better. Being the slow one has its advantages.
We’ve got robins, house finches, pine siskins, warblers, thrashers, towhees and one noisy crow, jousting about between a multitude of feeders and a bird bath. If I sit quietly, they will social-distance to about 6 feet. So far, only flies, butterflies and rusty-patch bumblebees are visiting the hummingbird feeders, but I’m optimistic. I’ve got grape jelly and oranges out for orioles, too. It’s a long shot, so we’ll see.
Be well. And be smart. Whatever that is.
© Tony Bender, 2020
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