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The day I knocked over Big Daddy

Let me preface this column by giving you some background history on my family. It should start at a spec of a spot on the Simpson County map called D’Lo (there are various stories regarding that unusual apostrophe) where my husband began mowing lawns at age 10. He has kept up that activity on a part-time basis for some 40 years, using those funds to pay for college, my engagement ring, and many a need or want since. He has, in fact, been known to work a third or fourth job as well so I could pursue my preferred occupation, one that may very likely end up on the most endangered species list before long — homemaker.

So now you know. Mowing is serious business in our household, and it makes for complicated taxes and stinky laundry and kids that can change oil like nobody’s business. Usually I stick to the part I do best (stinky laundry) and leave the actual touching of machinery to the professionals. Recently, however, I found myself riding shotgun in the work truck, surrounded by greasy rags and half-consumed bags of ranch-flavored sunflower seeds. It was a Saturday afternoon, and I had volunteered to help my husband cut a church cemetery.  Before he could find a better applicant, we were off, the sound of a trailer loaded down with two zero-turns and a rack of weed eaters rattling behind us as we crossed one remote county bridge after another. It was almost romantic.

Ah, spring. Flowers were blooming, and pollen was half an inch thick on the dashboard. Weeds grew wild and free, especially around the headstones dotting the landscape we were supposed to cut. My husband opened the gate and waved me toward Mower No. 1. I donned a fancy set of earplugs and adjusted the seat. Next, red lever (throttle), black switch (ignition), and yellow knob (blades). Voila! A wide swath of green lay before me, ready for business. I scooted down the trailer ramp and worked those weird in-and-out steering handles like I knew what was what. Maybe I was even “pumped,” as they say today.

Things went pretty good for a while. My husband cut an outline for me to follow, so I just wound around in ever-decreasing circles. Watch that wet spot there. Duck under the oak branches. Stay away from those roots. He’d roll pass me on his rig ever so often, and cock his head. I’d give him a confident thumb’s up.

About 20 minutes into it, I was thinking to myself, “Hey, I kind of like this. I can do this. Wait until I tell my sons that I — ”

And then it happened. Somehow — I still can’t explain it — I knocked over a headstone. The one that belongs to somebody’s Big Daddy. With the deck of my mower. (Which is not exactly my mower. I just do the stinky laundry, remember?)

Well, not only did I manage to knock over Big Daddy, but two other unlikely actions occurred at precisely the same nanosecond: 1) My husband managed to detach himself from his consuming weed eating task just long enough to look over his shoulder and see the whole scene, and 2) the grandson of the community matriarch managed to ride by on his four-wheeler and take his eyes off of his girlfriend long enough to glance through the chain link fence and see the whole scene.

Nice timing. 

Fortunately, both eyewitnesses had pity on me and immediately went about the task of righting my wrong. After a heave-ho or two, Big Daddy was back where he belonged and the Exmark was humming along, none the worse.

Me, not so much.

That’s because I’m the kind of person who walks around, rather than across a grave. I wear black to visitations. I pull over for funeral processions.

The next Sunday I was still so upset about what knocking over Big Daddy that I did what any proper Baptist would do — I confessed it to a group of friends gathered in the church vestibule. Their looks of disbelief didn’t help my feelings much.

So here’s the moral of this sad tale of how I became a mowing menace: the next time you’re cutting grass in a cemetery and you try to get close to a headstone so your husband won’t have to weed eat it very much, don’t.

And slow down while you’re at it.

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.