Our riding lawn mower isn’t working. We replaced the belt on it, but FarmerHoney suspects at least one spring is missing. However, without an owner’s manual, we’re kind of stuck. So, being overly optimistic, I searched online for the manual to our old Quality Farm & Country riding mower, model #475475.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s been on an Internet quest to find this little gem. After hours of searching – and reading posts from other Quality lawn mower owners, the manual no longer exists. I wonder if it ever did. In the past, I’ve downloaded several owner’s manuals for vintage appliances that I’ve purchased, including a 1970 Toastmaster Waffle Baker (thrift store, $7.00) and a 1972 Toastmaster 2-slice Toaster (thrift store, $5.00). They work perfectly well! Their manuals were easy to track down.
I wish our riding lawn mower had been made by Toastmaster. By now, we’d know where the missing spring should be located and the mower would be operational. Actually, if the mower had been made by Toastmaster, it would still be running just fine.
In the country, people make do with what’s on hand. Here, the nearest Lowe’s is over an hour away. Even the local hardware is 35 minutes away, over North Mountain.
In these parts, most farms have at least one cattle guard. This consists of a wide trench that stretches from one side of the road to the other. It is covered by a set of iron bars that run perpendicular to the road. Cattle are wary of differences in light and dark where they walk – or so the theory goes – and some roads even have cattle guards painted on them to fool the cattle into thinking there’s a trench beneath the stripes.
I guess our neighbor’s calves are smarter than most cattle. They have learned to bypass the cattle guard near our single-wide trailer and nibble on the grass in our yard. I usually don’t mind, as long as they steer clear of our hyacinths and lilac. Black Angus in my front yard is a novelty for me – never had cattle grazing on my lawn back in Northern Virginia! Can you imagine the crowd of kids that would draw? Not just kids, either! Sometimes, Doug (our neighbor) and his farmhand, Mike, will chase the calves out with their ATV’s. But like any creature who’s discovered a good thing, the calves always return.
Yesterday, three of the clever calves were grazing in our yard. But I was going to church and really did not want them nibbling on forbidden flowers in my absence. So, I donned my farm shoes and headed outside to help them rejoin the herd, which had gathered on the opposite side of the cattle guard, watching the calves, me, and our dog. The bovines are fascinated with our canine, especially when we’re playing with his red Frisbee.
Probably on any other day, when I didn’t have an appointment to keep, the calves would have walked calmly to the cattle guard and crossed over. But this was Sunday and I was being picked up to attend church. I suspect the cattle knew this, for they were not about to be easily guided back to the cattle guard.
One of them, the feistiest calf, trotted off along the woven wire fence. His mother shadowed him from the other side, mooing anxiously. (Yes, cattle moo different sounds and farmers use those sounds to judge what sort of moooood they’re in. Couldn’t resist!) I prayed that Snickle-Fritz would get the idea and help me steer the calf in the right direction. No, all he wanted to do was play Frisbee.
So I headed for the more docile calves and one by one they clambered over the bars and managed to get back to the other side. That left Mr. Personality. That’s what we dub any animal that is needing extra encouragement. It’s nicer than calling him, “You Little Dickens!”
That last calf actually stood his ground and sort of “dared me” to take him on. I don’t take on cattle – even a month old calf can do serious damage to a person. So I averted his gaze and walked parallel in his direction but with a 15-foot berth. We sort of played variations of this game for about eight minutes and then, tired of it, the calf stood in front of the cattle guard, trying to decide if he should join the herd or continue bantering with me. I stood still, about 10 feet behind the calf, giving him a chance to relax and think about it. (The teacher in me was thinking, “Make a good decision, Calf.”) Fortunately, I had the Frisbee in hand and gently tossed it to the right of the cattle guard. When Snickle-Fritz darted after the Frisbee, the calf turned to the left – where I was – and must have decided it was time to rejoin his buddies. He’d been cornered. To help cement his decision, I gave a low, soft, moo. I learned this from the cows. I just duplicated what sound they make and I find that this particular sound calms them. A cow trotting away in fear will actually stop and look at me when I moo at her. I’ve calmed cows with that moo.
Once the reluctant calf hopped over the guard, I’d expected the audience of Black Angus to disperse. No, they were enjoying the spectacle, evidently hoping for more. So I crossed over the cattle guard and walked toward them, encouraging them to go. “Nothing to see here, let’s move out.” Felt like a police officer at an accident scene. Most of the cattle left, content to return to grazing. A few cows were curious about me and stood to get a good look. I hadn’t showered yet, maybe that was why.
And those three calves still lingered near the cattle guard. A big old bovine was near the road, so I asked him to make sure HIS calves stayed on HIS side of the guard. He just looked at me, then walked toward the calves, who scattered at his approach.
I did not fail to notice that as the bull walked up the incline from where the cattle guard was, he became a bit larger, taller, more intimidating. Thank goodness he’s used to people! And thank goodness, he didn’t see me as a threat!
I don’t have to go anywhere today. So I guess that means the calves will stay in their pasture. I’m debating whether or not to remove some posts that I placed next to the cattle guard as a barricade. Obviously, it’s not working. And maybe, if it’s easier for the calves to walk over to our yard, they might bring some friends.
Natural lawn mowers. No owner’s manual necessary.