116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It has been quite some time since I last climbed aboard my tractor. Climbed aboard? Likely not farm terminology. Anyway, I spent a warm afternoon mowing the fields and trails down in my hollow, and it was heaven. Heaven because I don’t have to make a living on a tractor, thus I’m perhaps an interloper or, more likely, a tourist in a rural world. Heaven because the hollow no longer smells of despair and sadness.
Some years back I planted daffodil bulbs all around my hollow and I finally figured out why. When the world is older and I am gone I want some intrepid hiker to encounter one of my daffodils, and I want him/her to wonder how in the world these yellow and white flowers happen to be so far from gentle society. And I want them to wonder who planted the bulbs. Then I will live on.
Pretty white flowers on the wild plum trees have all fallen. Come late August I’ll bite into one of the plums, a meaningless annual habit for many years now, one that causes me to scrunch up my face thanks to the incredible tartness.
Since Mother’s Day I’ve been thinking about my mother, a woman who taught me pretty much all that I know. A few days back I told some friends about how, even from her deathbed 32 years ago, my mother was still giving me useful instructions. I was sitting with her in her hospital room on one of her final days and a good friend of hers came into the room, sat down in a chair, and read the saddest possible poem.
When she exited the room my mother turned to me and said, almost angrily, “You stand when a woman walks in the room.” Whoa, that one took me by surprise, but here’s the thing, for 32 years I have stood up any and every time a woman walks into a room in which I am present. Often the woman will say, “You don’t have to do that.” I just smile and think, “Oh, yes I do,”
Neighbors and friends have been hunting mushrooms on my property, as they do every year, but this year it seems they’re a bit scarce, the mushrooms, not my neighbors and friends. I don’t really care. I mean really, why would anyone wish to tromp through the woods and heavy underbrush so that they can eat what is arguably and scientifically a fungus?
I think about these things late of an afternoon, just before day bleeds into night, something you barely notice, about the time a half dozen deer show up at the salt lick by the garage, and the catbird couple in the shrub by the side door settle into their nest. All is as it should be out here.
Back to my tractor. Being alone on a tractor out where no one can see you is a thing to be enjoyed, savored, a loud bit of diesel meditation for an old man who doesn’t really believe in such stuff. The only downside is that once upon a time a beautiful, brilliant woman who loved me waited back at the house, waited for me to put the tractor away in an outbuilding and come home to be with her. And I always did.
Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book “The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press.