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Archive for July, 2010

All images copyright of Monster Dog Comics

Julie Coyle 2010

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All images copyright of Monster Dog Comics

Julie Coyle 2010

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All images copyright of Monster Dog Comics

2010 Julie Coyle

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All images copyright of Monster Dog Comics

2010 Julie Coyle

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Report from the field

Legend tells of peculiar little characters that once inhabited the houses of rural Irish folk. Referred to as “Good Folk” or the more common term “faerie”, these illusive, curious and sometimes devious creatures were known to come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some in particular would latch themselves to a family and do handiwork around the house with the understanding that bits of bread and milk would be left out for them at night. It was this sort of “Good Folk” that were said to have accompanied many of the Irish families to America and continued to live harmoniously with each passing generation.

My dad claims to have such a companion. Oh sure, he doesn’t call it a faerie or a spirit or even one of the many “Good Folk”. He simply refers to this odd little character as “the little green guy”. Unfortunately for my family, we did not inherit such a useful sprite as those that frequent the popular fairy tales mending shoes while their masters sleep or sorting kernels of wheat for grinding. Nope. As my dad would put it the little green guy is always out to get him. Whether it’s knocking a cup of coffee from his hands or misplacing a pair of gloves, the little green guy is always up to some sort of mischief. Of course, it’s never so devious as to be hurtful — just a nuisance, and always to blame when anything goes awry for my dad.

This morning the little green guy showed up to help out with the haying.

I woke early this morning (setting my alarm this time so I wouldn’t sleep in). Making my way out to the barn I discovered my dad in the middle of what he claimed was the little green guy’s doing.

Stuck

After attaching the baler to the tractor my dad had quite the struggle getting it out of the barn.

While attempting to fetch the baler from the barn my dad ran into a whole slew of problems. What is difficult to make out in this photo is that the baler refused to go past the cement foundation surrounding one of the wood posts. My dad had spent nearly a half hour fighting to get the baler locked onto the tractor to begin with, only to discover that the baler just wasn’t going to line up in order to get it out of the barn.

After another 15 minutes of backing up, pulling forward, re-angling, backing up again — all the while with me attempting to direct — my dad became frustrated. We’d already knocked over a pile of wood as well as having rammed into the tractor rake sitting nearby in our attempt to maneuver the baler.

My dad dismounted the tractor and unlatched the baler, grumbling something under his breath about #@$& tractors and that dratted little green guy. I thought perhaps he’d given up for the time being and would try again later. Instead, he hopped back onto the tractor seat and pulled forward. I had just begun re-stacking the woodpile we’d dislodged when he came back, this time driving the tractor straight at the baler.

For a moment I thought maybe he’d finally had it and in a blaze of grumpiness had decided to run the blasted thing over. But as he lowered the bucket I realized what he was up to.

Moving the baler

Using the bucket of the tractor my dad readjusted the baler and was finally able to free it from behind the foundation poles.

Using the bucket of the tractor, he lifted the baler and began to shift it forward. After a few more tense moments, the baler finally inched around the barn’s support poles. Once free my dad unhitched it from the tractor bucket and started over again, backing the tractor up to the baler to properly attach it. What should have taken 10 to 15 minutes ended up being an hour long ordeal, thanks to the little green guy.

Stuck baler.

Disgruntled dad with freed baler.

With his battle won our lone hero rides off into the sunrise to seek his next adventure. *Not an official ad for Massey Ferguson -- though it could be.

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Hay Day on the Farm

I woke this morning to my dog mumbling impatiently for me to get up. This is a behavior she’s acquired over the years and I appreciate it a lot more than my cat’s way of waking me which usually entails claws being run over bare skin.

I opened a blurry eye and caught sight of the black fluffy tail circling my bed like the fin of a great white. It bobbed back and forth for a moment then, sensing movement from the bed, froze. Two perked ears followed by a set of eyes emerged over the bed.

“Hi Scout,” I muttered.

She grinned and her tail wagged furiously. She let out another mumbled whine and pranced over to the doorway. Outside time.

I rolled over and looked at the clock. 8:30?! Wow, I’d slept in for once. I rolled out of bed, hair sticking up at all angles and sluggishly made my way to the front door to let Scout out.

Normally I’m a morning person, all perky and ready for coffee and a run at the crack of dawn – it drives most of my friends crazy. But this morning my body must have voted to take a few hours off and my mind apparently had agreed, which was a shame because it would have been a perfect day for an early run. Brilliant golden sunshine flooded through every window in the house.

Scout bounded outside and I stood in the doorway still trying to wake up and wondering if I might still be dreaming with such a beautiful day surrounding me. It almost felt warm. With a day like this Dad would be eyeing the tractor.

My brain suddenly focused. Sun. Tractor. Dad. Hay. Crap!! It had been just last week that I’d promised my brother I’d keep an eye on Dad’s haying plans and notify him the minute Dad even looked like he was reaching for the tractor keys. Hadn’t dad mentioned something about getting the mower ready yesterday? I sprinted to the backdoor to peer out at the barn. Sure enough, the barn door was open (not intended as a figure of speech). And as if on cue, I heard the roar of the tractor motor. My brother was going to kill me.

At this point I should mention a few important details. First, my dad has been haying since his retirement some 25 years ago. He is now 83 and capable of feats most 40 yr olds couldn’t handle. Still, my mom and the rest of the family worry about him overexerting himself. Enter my brother. For the past four years, if memory serves me, my brother has been determined to cut and bale the hay for my dad. My dad has since been determined to do the hay whenever he damn well pleases and though he welcomes the help he will not be deterred by it. Thus has started a strange race between my brother and my dad. Who will win is determined by who has the best intel. My dad relying on his weather radio to give him accurate advanced forecast of sunny weather and my brother relying on mom to give him the scoop when dad gets an itchy tractor finger. The last few years has found my brother lagging, always arriving a day or two late for the action and having to resign to baling the hay that he’d hoped to be cutting.

So this year my brother devised an especially devious plan. He scouted me out as his secret weapon. With me living in the farmhouse I’d have perfect access to Dad’s every movement. My orders – the second Dad even looked sideways at the hay equipment notify my brother immediately and remind Dad on any given occasion that my brother was interested in doing ALL the haying this year. I was also given strict orders to take the tractor keys and hide them if necessary. The last of these commands I absolutely refused to do. There’s no way I was going to get between my Dad and his tractor. I consider that a suicide mission. No thanks.

Now, I’m not going to say I completely let my brother down. Really, I’m not that incompetent. After all, how hard can watching out for an 80+ year old man be? Then again, we’re talking about my Dad. I did let slip over Friday night scotch that ┬ámy brother was very interested in haying this year. Dad grinned and sipped his scotch – his way of saying you don’t want to dabble in this battle. I acknowledged that the message had been sent and decided I had fulfilled the first half of my duty. Now to sit back and watch.

Which brings us back to this morning. I’d overslept and now, standing in the kitchen, I was watching with futility as my Dad atop his red tractor was jauntily making his way up the lane toward the upper fields. I could swear he was whistling merrily as he went, his victory won.

I made for my phone. I’d call my mom, see if she’d notified my brother. I noticed I had a missed call from her already. Drat! How could I have slept through a phone call and a tractor in my backyard?!

I dialed.

My mom answered.

“Hey,” I said, my voice still froggy from sleep.

My mom immediately went into her morning report which is the norm. Nothing more is required to be said except a “Hey” or “Hi”, merely for voice recognition. Once she knows who she’s talking to she begins a personalized news cast which always includes what’s for breakfast, the weather – even though I can look out the window – and what my father is up to. This morning she skipped local news and went straight to the point. “Your father is out there getting that tractor ready to cut hay today. He’s gonna try to get the upper field cut this afternoon.”

Yep. My brother would kill me for sure. I started to ask if she’d told my brother but reading my mind she said “I called your brother and he’s down in San Francisco right now.”

Good timing Dad.

“But he’s driving to Portland today and will be here first thing tomorrow,” continued my mom.

Great. I’d dropped the ball but at least Mom had been able to pick it up. And really, what harm had my delay done? My brother was stuck traveling anyway. I could have taken the tractor keys I suppose. I’ll probably hear about that tomorrow. Perhaps laying low might be my best bet.

Despite the morning’s blunders, I did manage to do my part in helping with the first day of haying. I picked up my traditional role as lemonade girl, a job bestowed upon me at the tender age of 5 (since I could do little else when it came to haying). Grabbing a bottle of ice tea and a lemonade from the fridge, I bounded across the fields to catch up with the tractor whipping dust and hay into the air. My sprint was made especially difficult due to my dad not seeing me and therefore not slowing down. I finally caught up to the tractor, my lungs reminding me of my hay allergy and my dad grinning down from his perch.

I handed him the ice tea and lemonade which he gratefully accepted. Over the roar of the tractor I asked if there was anything else I could do to help. Dad shook his head. He was content. A man in control of his own domain – just him, his tractor and 50 acres of hay without anyone to answer to. Well, at least until tomorrow when we’ll both be answering to my brother.

The perfect hay day.

I guess at this point I could have rushed the tractor in a last ditch attempt to thwart my dad from haying without my brother. Alas, I snapped a few more pictures and decided to let Dad revel in his temporary victory..

One row complete...only about 20 more laps to go (a complete guess on my part).

The field complete, my dad takes a moment to admire his handiwork and toast it with a scotch.

A job well done! This field is the first in a series of approximately 15 acre parcels. It took my dad about 4 hours to complete. That's without any failing tractor parts or broken blades.

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The Endurance of Trees

I discovered this tree growing at the edge of my parents’ property. At one time the tree had been used as a fence post having nails and barbwire driven into its bark. Years have passed and the fence has rotted and fallen in spots, the barbwire rusted and twisted where cattle have pushed through its barrier. The tree, however, still stands and has grown around the wire like skin closing over a wound. The puckered scar is all that remains of parts of the wire, now buried deep within the tree’s skin. It made me wonder about the way we carry scars. Does our flesh grow back over deep and jagged wounds in a similar way? I began to think on how strong this tree is, how determined. Did it really care that it was being used as a fence? Probably not. It simply continued to grow and in the process absorbed that which had been given to it. Instead of allowing the wire to hinder it’s growth it incorporated it. Somewhere in that I’m sure there is a lesson on enduring what life throws our way. Whatever it says, I think the tree says it best. Good job tree.

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