I borrowed the title this week from a “Zits” comic strip, in which the main character’s life is assaulted by little tasks that all seem urgent. Each is represented by a duck who quacks out the task as it stalks him. The last panel shows him almost entirely engulfed in them, and then he says to his friend: “It’s like being nibbled to death by ducks.” Well, I can do him one better: I actually have multiple duck wounds. Lemme ‘splain.
The first wounds came from our ducklings, who are actually more like rambunctious teenager ducks now. We moved them from our berry patch to the garden patch because they were starting to nibble the berry plants. No blooms on the berry plants or the apple tree, although our peach tree has 11 very ripe-looking peaches now, thank You, Lord! In the garden, all the plants are raised off the ground, so we figured the ducks could just keep the bugs in check and the plants wouldn’t be in danger of overgrazing…unless the ducks can climb. They do have claws on their webbed feet, which is how they wounded me. I picked them up to carry them to their new home, and they kept trying to to walk out of my arms. They still don’t really take to people, and that’s fine with us as long as they start laying eggs someday. And get a pedicure.
The second duck wound I received was intentional on my part. I scared our resident egg-mother, Georgiana, off her nest to count the eggs, and I figured she would attack me; she’s gotten very protective, and besides, my wife had warned me moments before. She pecked at my hand pretty hard, and a little knick began bleeding. I shrugged it off; I’m a tough guy, right? But how often do you get to show people multiple duck wounds? I don’t get enough attention, apparently…
I know, I know. You’re all wondering, sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting with baited breath (which must really stink, if you have ever smelled bait): did you get your riding mower to run again? And the answer is…of course I did. Okay, God helped several times with divine discernment, and we have replaced so many parts, it’s not entirely a used mower anymore, but I fixed it. And I used my own tools and improving mechanical know-how, although not always correctly. Here’s this week’s adventure.
I had to remove the v-belt from the mowing deck last week because it was worn and stretched and wouldn’t stay on the drive wheels for the blades, and therefore wouldn’t cut. This is bad. A riding mower that doesn’t cut is called an ugly, gas-guzzling go-cart, and your lawn gets so overgrown, a go-cart won’t even drive on it. So I detached the deck in two places and removed the belt, and called Sears for a replacement part.
It turns out that they have one that fits several models, and it was on the shelf. So we picked one up after church one night. We got to the store minutes before closing time, but got the part right away. God is good…and I bet He is laughing again about my stress in this area. Anyway, I got it put on, and the deck reattached. Then I had to replace the linchpin on a front strut, so I made one from a swingset chain (God’s inspiration again). But when I went to put it in, I noticed the metal piece the strut attaches to was bent ninety degrees out of alignment…and I couldn’t figure out how to bend it back. I tried putting in the strut and pushing; no dice. I tried pushing with pliers and banging with a hammer. Strike two. I was contemplating some contraption to use the mower’s drive power to pull it back, but I was getting nowhere…until God turned my brain in a different direction.
I put in the strut backwards, and pulled it. Seconds later, the strut fit well enough and the metal was back in alignment. WOOHOO! Then I checked under the deck to make sure all was well before mowing, and…it wasn’t. Both blades looked as though a crazy blacksmith prankster had taken them over an anvil to make sure they were just wrong. They were bent; bent like you see the burly henchman in a movie bend the iron bar to scare the captive. (Sigh). I am not a burly henchman, so I knew I had to replace the blades. I had some replacements, but the last time I took blades off, I had to remove the whole mowing deck, and that was a multi-day, nearly-cursing-out-loud affair. I didn’t want to face that again.
I had just given a major effort not to lose patience with the bent strut, and here was yet another obstacle to mowing our yard. You have to understand: I love mowing our yard. It is satisfying like vacuuming, shaving, or getting a haircut. But this goes even further. See, I had to quit last week after mowing about 4 laps in the back and nothing in the front. My weedeater broke, so all the corners and the fences look very overgrown, and we’ve been finding ticks in strange places, and the neighbor’s yard looks like a golf course…so I REALLY want to mow my lawn. And I had just mowed a lot of those ugly places with my push mower, so all that was left was the big, flat areas which a riding mower is perfect for. And I have to remove the deck again? (Loud inward groan here.)
And then, God, in His mercy, turned my brain a different direction. What if I just reached under the raised deck, and took the blades off? My arms just fit, and it was matter of minutes to remove the old blades and put on the new ones. I was lying on my side, in the dirt and junk that our basement floor collects, the mower deck resting on my duck-wounded arm, blindly trying to unscrew the last blade, putting forth a Herculean effort…and at last the screw turned, and my pinky got bashed into something with the force of my final push. I let out a loud yell, louder and longer than was absolutely necessary, thinking of Rambo in the tank charging the Russian in the helicopter in Rambo III. And then I heard the phone ring. (Sigh) Back to reality.
I left my machine in pieces, sprinted up the stairs, and got to the phone for the last ring. It was my wife. And it was worth it. After the call, I went back downstairs, finished the repairs, and did the mowing, and it was very good. But I’m glad that I could set aside the mowing to focus on what is more important: people. All the ducks, literal and figurative, in my life are less important than the people in my life. And I have God to thank for teaching me that. Could He teach the ducks to be nicer? Maybe He can teach them to fix my mower instead.