Me and Duncan restoring my antique mower

It was my first evening of mowing hay and things weren’t going well at all. I had scheduled a week’s vacation in anticipation of cutting, raking, baling and stacking our annual one crop of dry-land hay, but at the rate I was going there was no way I could finish in that period of time. I had made only one pass around the first field and both of the vintage sickle mowers broke. Both mowers were as old as I am with just as many aching and ailing joints and other moving parts, but like most old men, with a little love and some occasional maintenance they somehow manage to continue working.

My friend Duncan made three long treks to Timber Butte from his home in Fruitland to bring me parts from the John Deere dealership in order to put the old mowers in working condition. We replaced the cutting teeth and guides, straightened and welded parts that were damaged and replaced old bolts and nuts that served for too many haying seasons. While they seemed to be perfect working condition, it took me less than an hour to break them both. The first one (ironically called “The New Idea”), broke its wooden drive shaft called a pitman arm, and the second one (an old “John Deere”) blew out a hydraulic seal when I attempted to raise the long seven-foot sickle arm up high enough so as not to cut through a large dirt squirrel mound.  I felt pretty defeated and discouraged after months of waiting and preparing for this anticipated week of farming.

The John Deere mower still worked even without the use of its ancient hydraulics, but it made all kinds of unnatural noises as I was moving along at a snail’s pace in an effort not to damge it further. After each pass around the field I prayed, thanking God for the slow but steady progress I had made and asking for the ability to keep on going. I was creeping up a steep hill when over the sound of the tractors diesel engine and the clattering of the many moving parts on the mower I felt my cell phone vibrate in the bib of my overalls. I answered it but couldn’t hear who was calling. I yelled over the noise to the unknown caller to hold on until I topped the hill I was climbing which took at least another minute or two. When I arrived at a place safe enough to stop I shut everything off and answered the call. It was Duncan.

After breaking the second machine I had shared my wows and frustrations with Nancy, and she had convinced me to give Duncan a call. I didn’t get him at the time, but had left a pathetic whimpering plea for moral support on his answering machine. His return call came none too soon.

It’s amazing what a cheerful laughing voice can do for a person who feels defeated. Just the sound of Duncan’s laugh made me see the humor in my situation and all of the sudden things didn’t seem quite so bad. He assured me that he would be out early the next morning and help me get things going. Duncan is an old farmer, and although he had never used machinery as old as mine, he understood how to keep old junk working. Just the thought of having company in my misery felt good.

I realized that mowing hay is a lot like life. The key to success is to never quit but to keep on moving even in the midst of trials, feelings of defeat, frustration and adversity. Thank God for the victories and progress you make and ask for His strength to press on. Somehow when all is said and done, you get to the other side and the hay ends up in the barn.

The next day Duncan showed up and not only brought brightness to the day with his light attitude, but jumped in and went to work.  He repaired mowers while I continued to cut hay and by the end of the day both mowers were functioning and the hay was ready to rake into wind rows. We finished long before dark and the feeling of frustration I had felt were forgotten, instead replaced with a heart of thanksgiving for God’s intervention and the lending hand of a good friend.