by Connie Darago
Bittersweet memories flooded my mind, and I brushed away tears as I watched the large white flatbed truck lumber down the drive. I felt as though I had given up another child to the world. After all, Babe had been part of the family for over 22 years.
In 1969, husband George and I went searching for a perfect place to raise our family. We found property in a then-remote region along the Bay known as Calvert County. We cleared a niche among the stately white oak and beech to built our home. Trees leave little chance for the grass to thrive, but the day came when we went to the local International franchise, Tobacco Growers, to buy a riding lawn mower.
Six months pregnant with our daughter Misty, I wanted an easy way to cut grass. George had visions of grandeur and got that twinkle in his eye as he spotted the ultimate mower.
"This is a lawn tractor," he said, "with electric start, hydrostatic transmission, a 1650hp engine - the biggest that's offered - and lots of attachments."
He was right. There were enough attachments to do any job but maybe diaper the new baby. The price tag was just shy of the cost of our 1973 Buick.
Our sons Richy, 10, and Billy, five, jumped with glee when the mower was delivered. I think they looked at it as a big Tonka toy.
"She's a real babe, isn't she?" my husband said. From that day forward, she was known as Babe. Not a lawnmower, not a tractor, Babe.
She served the family well, cutting a yard that grew to encompass two acres.
Cutting grass stayed my job. George tried but found it difficult to distinguish iris and chrysanthemum from grass, and the boys were always in a hurry, leaving uncut strips and circle patterns.
Still, Richy convinced his Dad he was responsible enough to learn to operate Babe. George gave him safety instructions and explicit areas to avoid. Richy traveled the property with the little cart behind doing chores, transporting Tonkas from one sand pile to another and giving rides to his siblings and friends.
Observant and much more reserved, Bill found other ways to enjoy her, carrying his bait and tackle to the pond and using her comfortable contoured seat for his fishing chair. Then the boys moved on to mini-bikes and dirt bikes and found Babe a little too tame.
Years travel quickly when you're raising children and soon baby girl Misty became Babe's next conqueror. Independent Misty spent many hours riding Babe across the farm, which we now shared with Priscilla the goat, turkeys, chickens and 20 head of cattle all bearing names. One of her favorite paths was a narrow cattle trail along the upper side of the pond.
One evening I heard a distressing voice. "Dad, help! Dad! She's going into the pond."
As George and I topped the hill, we saw Misty knee deep in the murky pond water, trying to hold back the tractor from sinking.
"Just get out of the way and let her go," George screamed.
Misty lunged to the side as the tractor slid into the pond to rest in some three feet of water. Babe had to be towed from the pond with the big Ford farm tractor and Misty scrubbed from head to toe. They followed other paths after that.
When Babe began to choke and smoke, we knew it was time to say good-bye.
As I waited for the truck to bring the new mower, I removed her from the barn, washed her, took pictures and reminisced.
When George came home he quietly walked over and stood beside the new mower. "Babe looked good when she left," he said.
"I washed her and took pictures," I said.
"Good," he said.
"Should we give the new mower a name?" I asked.
"Maybe," he answered.
Connie Darago of Huntingtown breaks into NBT with "Babe."
| Issue 44 |
Volume VII Number 44
November 4-10, 1999
New Bay Times
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