Welcome to the The Burning Hearth blog. The theme for February and March 2020 is Memories of Our Grandfathers. This month readers will enjoy a lovely tale by Daniel Lanzdorf. In his creative non-fiction “Grasshopper,” a memory of his grandfather is triggered while he is mowing during an approaching storm.
by Daniel Lanzdorf
The forecast calls for rain arriving in a few hours, giving me plenty of time to mow the grass. It’s Wisconsin though, in mid-May, with a temperature of only forty degrees. I bundle up in winter garb, feeling a bit adventurous. I love mowing grass. Fifteen years ago, I purchased a reconditioned Grasshopper mower with the idea it will probably outlast me. We both are still going strong. I start the engine and ease it into gear. As Grasshopper carries me up to speed, the biting cold feels good on my face.
The scent of mowed grass and the approaching bad weather, trigger a fond memory with my Grandfather.
I am a ten year-old city-boy on summer vacation, visiting the dairy farm he carved from glacial rock in Northern Wisconsin. We are gathering hay ahead of an approaching storm, because hay, after it is cut and rained upon, quickly rots. Both of us sweat and work silently, when suddenly, he motions for me to stop, points toward the horizon and places his arm around my shoulder. A massive line of black cloud is rolling toward us. The cold front slaps me in the face with heavy wind and stinging, cold rain. I look up at my Grandfather and he is laughing while standing in the field of ruined hay. Then unexpectedly, he grabs both my hands and we dance together in the pouring rain.
What the heck is going on here? I’m only thirty minutes into mowing and rain smacks me in the face. The wind has shifted and the temperature is dropping quickly. I question whether to return safely home or mow on. “Ha! “ I shout. Rounding a tree down by the pond, a mating pair of mallard ducks scares up from the water. Viva the ducks! Then a large patch of white trillium comes into view, so unexpected that I turn the mower back around to be sure. I turn off the engine and marvel at the beauty of wild trilliums in the pouring rain. Now thoroughly soaked, I re- start Grasshopper and race on, pushing its throttle to the highest setting. I am the half-crazed Bjartur, Icelandic hero, grasping the antlers atop his bull reindeer, racing across the rugged landscape.
I round the last tree screaming like a mad man, suddenly struck dumb. It is snowing. I stop the machine and listen to the perfect silence, more glorious even than wild trillium or mating ducks in spring. Except, it is not snow, but a shower of apple blossoms blowing from the nearby tree. I am crying softly now and feel his arm around my shoulder. Apple blossoms are falling still. We grasp each other’s hands and dance across the mown grass together.