This story is fiction, but it might be based on true events. The names of the participants have been changed to protect the innocent and the egos of the men involved if this is indeed based on any true events, which I am not admitting.
by Penny Sanford Fikes
The riding lawnmower triumphantly returned to the farm yesterday afternoon from yet another trip to the repair shop. Peggy was so relieved! She went to sleep last night with a grateful heart, expecting the next day to bring a better sense of order to the areas immediately around the house, studio, Grandma's house and barns.
The tall grass was growing fast with the frequent rain showers, even going to seed. The seed was getting in the hair of the Westies which in turn was causing skin reactions. At least one rat or chicken snake had been killed close to the house. They never saw snakes when the yard was kept mowed.
Life was just more ordered and peaceful when the yard and meadows were kept mowed. Even the sound of the lawnmower or weed-eater or tractor and big grass clipper was soothing to Peggy. It was as much a part of summer as the nightly song of Whip-o-wills or the calming chatter of cicada on sweltering Mississippi afternoons.
The day, however did not dawn as peacefully as Peggy had expected or hoped. She was puttering with household duties when her husband Griffin stomped into the house, grumbling that Peggy's 84 year old Uncle Chuck had just come outside and stopped Griffin from mowing just to tell him his coffee was ready.
Uncle Chuck just wanted to get Griffin off of the riding lawnmower so that he could get to drive it around the yard and mow, Griffin complained! Both men loved operating the riding lawnmower...when it was operating properly.
The continuing problem, though, was that both men approached the general operation and maintenance of the lawnmower from different perspectives.
The older man would not wear his glasses while mowing, so he often ran over stumps and bent blades or caused parts to break. Then there were years the riding mower had not received basic maintenance before Griffin had married Peggy and they had moved to the family farm.
Griffin, younger by 40 years than Uncle Chuck, approached farm equipment from a different perspective and understanding of modern maintenance and modern equipment limitations. The way modern equipment was handled and maintained was far different than the way tough tractors made from thick metals were maintained in the 1950's, for an example.
The Lawnmower Wars had been preceded by the Tractor Wars on the family farm, so Peggy's nerves were particularly sensitive to any testosterone-driven competition over equipment.
At the present, the almost-new farm tractor had multiple broken parts because it had been repeatedly tasked to do work it was never designed to do. Griffin now wanted to wait on getting those expensive repairs (around $1200) made because when he had repaired the tractor before, the same parts were quickly over tasked and broken again.
Now a broken disk and something else had been added to the list of problems with the farm tractor. Peggy had ceased to want to know any more details about the tractor.
An uneasy truce existed in the house regarding the farm tractor.
So when Griffin stomped in to complain that Uncle Chuck has used coffee to lure him away from the lawnmower, Peggy decided it was time for her to take a mid day bath retreat.
She did this when the men became territorial over something. She took the four Westies, spread a quilt on the tile bathroom floor, brought in a full thermos of peach tea, and settled in for several hours of brushing and grooming the Westies and washing at least two of them in the shower with her.
No phones, no TV news, no MEN! Three Westies napped while she groomed the fourth one. Being surrounded by their soft snores and muffled yips and muscle jerks from dreaming about chasing critters were as relaxing to Peggy as one of the little pills a doctor could prescribe.
The men never admitted if they figured out that Peggy escaped to the bathroom to get away from the two of them and their testosterone tirades . If they ever wondered why it took so long for her to get a shower and wash a couple of dogs, they never dared ask.
If the extended bath time kept Peggy happy that was all that mattered. Neither man wanted to push her into one of her full-fledged Southern Woman Hissey Fits.
Peggy had thrown only about half a dozen full-fledged Southern Woman Hissey Fits since she and Griffin had married and moved back to the family farm in Mississippi. Those full-fledged Southern Woman Hissey Fits were powerful enough that neither man wanted to trigger one...ever!
From the bathroom retreat, Peggy heard two pair of work shoes stomping down the hall, followed by a slamming of the antique front door. She was glad she was locked away and did not have to hear the huffing and puffing and blaming and complaining. Well, she at least HOPED she would not be able to hear the latest chapter of the Lawnmower Wars that was being written today.
It was the fault of the repair shop in Winona. "They wanted to make us buy a new lawnmower last year, and they messed up something on purpose."
"They don't make belts the way they used to, so that is why we have to put on a new $40 belt every time we need to mow!"
"We should have let the repair place in Kilmichael fix the lawnmower all along. They fixed the belt problem right away, but now we may have alternator problems."
"When did you put in the new battery?"
"I don't remember."
"We always need to write down the date when we get a new battery?"
"Well I cleaned off the battery terminals, and it is still not starting"
"Well it ran fine when I was driving it this afternoon."
"Yes, and it ran fine when I was driving it earlier. Then when I got back on it when you ran it out of gas, it started choking up and the engine started dying."
"I just jump started it with the pickup, and it ran a full circle around the yard and then died in the same place it died last time."
"I'm so sick of this xxxxxxx lawnmower and it not running! I'm ready to take a shotgun and just shoot the damned thing!"
Peggy had heard the exchange all the way from the front porch to the locked bathroom door. Neither man was directly accusing each other or verbally attacking each other, but they were both venting their anger and frustration into the air around them, and Peggy did not want to be anywhere near that stress!
She heard the antique door slam again and the lock thud, followed by just one pair of footsteps stomping back down the hall toward the den, passing by the bathroom without stopping. Her ears and one Westie's tail told her it was Griffin who had locked the front door and was stomping back to the den to cool off...temperature-wise and temper-wise."
Peggy, in a previous year, would have called out to Griffin and asked him to unlock the front door so that Uncle Chuck could come inside from the front yard if he got thirsty or tired or if the lawnmower stopped on him in the front yard. That would have given Griffin the opportunity to vent all of his frustration into the air in the bathroom, and that was precisely what Peggy was trying to avoid, so she remained quiet and hoped the older man did not need to get in the house from the front door.
There was another factor. Last summer, the older man, who always had difficulty starting the weed-eater, started to walk through the den and then down the long hall toward the front door...with the weed-eater running at full speed because it was shorter than walking around the house to reach the front yard.
Peggy had caught that disaster-in-the-making before the running weed-eater reached the family antiques that lined the long hall. Weed-eater string would have left horrendous scars in the walnut and mahogany bookcases, wardrobes and marble-topped tables and hall-tree.
That was last summer, and it was the last time Peggy had needed to unleash a full-force Southern Woman Hissey Fit. The explosion and verbal shrapnel had apparently left enough of an impression that Griffin was willing to lock the front door to keep the older man from taking a short cut through the house with the riding lawn mower JUST IN CASE Uncle Chuck got the notion to do so!
Peggy emerged from the extended bathroom Westie spa treatment, having washed THREE of the Westies. As she sat on the bed to brush out her hair and put it up to dry naturally, she heard the ongoing Lawnmower drama entering from the back door.
"It has run just fine for me for years! Did you check to see if grass was clogging the air filter?"
"I cleaned out the air filter first thing when it started choking and dying on me."
"We're taking this damned thing back to the shop first thing in the morning and let them fix it!"
"Well it's not the belt problem any more."
"NO! It's now SOMETHING else!"
"I cleaned the battery terminals," Uncle Chuck reported to Griffin with an undertone of "If I had been driving the mower it would not have stopped today".
"Well, I cleaned out the air filter and checked the spark plugs and fuel line", Griffin retorted with a similar tone.
Ten straight hours of Lawnmower Wars was ENOUGH for one day. Peggy dove into a big bowl of mulberries smothered in chocolate sauce, served over vanilla ice cream, and she blocked out the verbal volleys being lobbed across the room.
She remembered her father's oft-repeated words, "You have to be smarter...."
Actually the rest of the phrase was "...than the dog to train the dog." Her father was teaching her how to train dogs as a young pre-teen breeder of Border Collies...but the phrase worked for men as well. A woman had to be smarter than the man in order to train him.
Peggy smiled inside, remembering the bit of Southern Woman wisdom she had learned early in life and had seen proved many times in her 47 years. One cannot CHANGE a man, but a woman sure can train him!!!
A drop of chocolate syrup dripped off the mulberries on the spoon and onto her arm where a watchful Westie quickly licked it up. Peggy's mind escaped to potential recipes for mulberries, replacing Lawnmower Wars with thoughts of chocolate liqueur dripping over beautiful ripe mulberries. She wondered how much chocolate liqueur it would take to give one a relaxed, peaceful mood?