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An Early Morning Tractor Tale

Written by Diana Leafe Christian
The morning after the February 12 unexpected snowstorm I had a rendezvous with Mana and Johnny and the tractor at 7:30. Mana, a sailor who knows knots, lashed my 2 suitcases to the front fork. Johnny got in the seat and Mana and I perched on the bumpers on either side, holding one with one hand onto the back of the seat and the other holding the handle on the bumper between our legs, my computer safely jammed between her and Johnny.
          Given the potential warmth-factor of our vehicle — which is the current outside temperature + the breeze you create by your speed + the breeze off the mountain —  I was wearing 3 pair of socks and Debbie’s rubber boots, 3 pair of cotton long johns, jeans, my ankle-length wool knit skirt (which was hiked up so I could grab the handle between my legs), 2 turtlenecks, a sweatshirt, my black parka, my neck scarf wrapped around my neck and lower face, a wool hat and my parka hood, and a pair of gloves inside a pair of mittens. Considering I was wearing nearly all the clothes I own and the outer layer was black, I reminded myself of a chubby Inuit thrift-store Beatnik. Johnny and Mana, much more sensible, (not to mention svelte) wore Carharts, hats and sweatshirt hoods, gloves, heavy work boots. and polar-tec balaclavas. They had it down.
           I reckon it was about 15 degrees, given the online hour-by-hour forecast (thank you, Greg) with actual temperature and wind-chill factor.  “Don’t let your feet get tangled up in the wheel,” Mana cautioned. And we were off!
          It was a beautiful sunny morning and the sunlight glinted off the fresh dazzling white snow. The views out over the snow-covered mountains were wonderful. There was ice in the wheel ruts of previous cars, and, I suspect, black ice from the night before under the snow at the turns. But Earthaven’s tractor don’ care ’bout no steenk’in’ ice; it just trundled over everything, impervious.  We were kings!
          Johnny employed darn-near every gear the tractor has on various grades and slopes. The snow was only about 2″, which made it easier and much less slow-going than when Johnny and Mana took Andy and Julie out three weeks earlier in about a foot of snow.
          Every once in awhile Johnny sort of hug-patted my nearest leg, which was adjacent to his gear-shifting arm, as if to say “How’re ya doin’, old girl? Hanging in there?” It was exactly the way someone sitting in a chair would hug and pat a dog around its neck if it was sitting next to their knee, so I’d laugh because I felt like I was being patted like a dog. It was friendly and funny (and the momentary BTUs probably helped reduce the refrigeration factor by some fraction). Each time he did it I wanted to bark in appreciation.
          As we chugged around the hairpin turn at Deer Rock we saw Brian’s van and UPN’s truck amid the many cars that had given up on getting up the hill and parked there unexpectedly. At near midnight the night before, since cars were sliding backwards down the road and there’d been an accident,  Brian, Carmen, Sarah, and Will had said, “Forget this!” and hiked on home.
          We rumbled into the parking lot at Crooked Creek gas station at 8:54 am. Minus the time it took to lash the bags to the mizzenmast, it took about an hour. And there was Black Mountain Laundry’s airport shuttle fellow waiting, so I traded vehicles, got a lot warmer real fast, and made it to the airport in plenty of time. Mana and Johnny turned that red baby around and chugged back on home, and I flew to blizzardy Iowa just fine. Where I haven’t chopped kindling, lugged firewood, or checked a trimetric meter even once!
          Thank you, Mana and Johnny! And thank you, Earthaven and the EDO for years ago buying — and every year maintaining — our beautiful, massive, fabulously versatile and sometimes-Iowa-job-saving tractor!
          Diana Leafe Christian, communities expert, just returned from teaching in Iowa for a month, and is Earthaven’s Airspinner.

Diana Leafe Christian, Johnny, Mana, snow, snowstorm, tractor

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