Wednesday, February 2, 2011
I dance with Mr. Bradley
Another week, another dump of snow. All previous snows, Aaron has done the plowing with our David Bradley walk-behind tractor and ended the day an over-cooked noodle of exhaustion. I figured Aaron needed a break from plowing, and I knew I needed a break from child care, so I insisted this time it was my turn to plow, his turn to bathe the kids. As I left the house, he predicted I'd soon wish I was doing bath time.
Aaron had started the engine for me (a procedure requiring many pulls on the starter cord), so Mr. Bradley was growling in the driveway, clutch disengaged, waiting for me. I sighed, pulled down the clutch, and grabbed the handles to steer. The metal felt mighty cold through wet wool gloves. But in moments, I was gripping has hard as I could despite the mild pain. The throttle doesn't work, so there is only one speed, zombie speed: slow, steady, inexorable. I knew Aaron had said it was hard work plowing, and I believed him, but from the window, it doesn't look that hard, walking along at such a stately pace. However, I was finding steering so difficult, I didn't see the advantage over shoveling. Within 15 feet of my starting point, I was drifting out of the line cut by Aaron on the right side of the driveway, over to the left side of the driveway. I kept having to disengage the clutch to keep from going into the ditch. Despite my best repeated efforts, I could not get Mr. Bradley back to the right side of the driveway, he persisted in side-sliding towards the left-hand ditch no matter how hard I wrestled him.
I could see Aaron watching from the window. After some hand flapping, head shaking, and arm waving, we got out our cell phones. He was surprised to hear I couldn't control the plow. "It looked like you were doing fine." When I explained what was going on, he said he'd do the plowing. He did not want to have to get Mr. Bradley out of a ditch. Since I am stubborn, and since I really did need a break from the kids, I told him I'd try once more. This time, I didn't try to get back to the right side of the driveway, but rather stayed in the line Aaron cut on the left side. Things started going better. I figured out I shouldn't fight Mr. Bradely's zombie-ness, but work with it. If Mr. Bradley starts going sideways, he is simply doing what zombies do, if they can't push through, they go around, slowly, steadily, inexorably. Instead of trying to wrestle him back on track, it is simply a matter of pressing down on the handles, so the plow blade lifts up a bit and less snow needs pushing. With the resistance gone, David "Zombie" Bradley continues on his course. I was relieved to know that Aaron hadn't been working that hard all those hours. It also is a blessing that Mr. Bradley doesn't sound like a zombie, it would get tedious listening to droning about brains while plowing. Instead, he evokes memories of fishing with his put-puttering sounding like an outboard motor. Back at the top of the driveway, I ran inside for dry gloves and was comfortable thereafter.
After two hours of plowing, it seemed to me the only way to make more progress would be with a shovel. So much snow has already fallen, there is nowhere to push the new snow. The banks were as packed as Mr. Bradley could pack them, and I felt great. Maybe I could do some farm work after all. Plowing was arduous, but I got absorbed in the challenge of getting the path wide enough and smooth enough, and then, when I was done, I felt downright proud. Back in the cabin, I found the children bathed and playing with bath toys in the living room. I got Walker down for his nap and made dinner while Aaron shoveled back the left snow bank almost to the end of the drive, which took two hours. He went to bed a while ago, an over-cooked noodle of exhaustion. As satisfying a day as it was, I can't help but think of the White Queen. We're having to run awfully hard just to stay in place. And now, this already achy noodle is off to bed.