A Kid’s Summer
Growing up, with the lawn at home and my gram’s lawn next door, we had about one and three-quarters acres to mow. Today, kids would expect a Z-Drive or at least a mower they could sit on instead of walk behind. I used to drool when I saw riding lawn mowers as I mowed the whole acre and three quarters with an 18-inch-cut push mower. It wasn’t even self propelled.
It seemed back then, in the mid to late 1960s, that we got more heat and less rain than we do today. I had one day a week that I mowed the lawns. If it rained in the morning and turned off hot and muggy in the afternoon, I mowed grass. If the grass didn’t get mowed during the day, I mowed in the evening and made a great smorgasbord for the blackflies and skeeters that seemed as big as B-52s.
The good thing about mowing in the morning and working until I was done was, when I got done and cleaned the mower, I could ride my bike to Washburn for an afternoon with my friends swimming in the mill pond. After an afternoon of swimming, I could ride down on the truck route, where Dad’s boss had the equipment yard and shop. If Dad’s truck was there, I could wait for him and ride home. If it wasn’t, I had an hour-long ride back home for dinner that evening. I was seldom late.
Then again, there were the days that I went to work with my dad. We would either be hauling gravel or he would be operating his backhoe or a bulldozer on any given job from Madawaska to Mars Hill. The bad thing about those days was having to go home at quitting time. My stepmom used to say that most kids would be bored leaving home at 6 in the morning and spending the day watching Dad work. But I didn’t just watch. After I ate my lunch, I would grease the machine or shovel the mud out of the bucket that got packed in from digging or I would clean the packed-in mud and dirt in the front of the truck’s dump body. Some considered that work. To me it was fun — mainly because I was doing it for Dad.
In the beginning of August, the farmer I worked for in winter and spring would have me come to work cleaning the potato house and spraying it with disinfectant so the new seed in the fall could be stored with no danger of disease. This would take about a week. After that it was usually too cold to swim, so Don and I or Ricky and I would hang out at one of our camps and just be kids.
Then, towards the 20th of August, the big yellow paddy wagon would show up to take us to the prison called school — not really a prison, but through the eyes of a young person who would rather mow grass in the flies, it seemed prison-like.
On a day when it rained, if I wasn’t in my camp, I was in my room reading or building any of an assortment of car or airplane models. My mind had to be active all the time, it seemed like. But I did enjoy my summers.
Now, at 63, I watch the kids mowing, when they do mow, and this vision transports me back in time and I Remember When. . .
Guy Woodworth, a Presque Isle native now living in Limestone, is a 1973 graduate of Presque Isle High School and a four-year Navy veteran. He and his wife Theresa have two grown sons and five grandchildren. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.