Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ken And Peryl

Tim and I went to visit his brother, Dan and Dan's wife, Carrie, a couple years ago. In hindsight, I cannot tell you exactly how it came to be, but by the time we left their house, Tim had bought a backhoe. Carrie was thrilled. Hornburg men have a pretty unconventional idea of what constitute lawn ornaments, so I understood her excitement as she offered a buy one, get one free deal. I declined her offer without hesitation, since I've got a Hornburg man at my own house who has his own stash of necessaries artfully arranged around the property. We certainly did not need any more stuff for our yard. I did, however, invite them to come visit us just as soon as possible.
Tim immediately began to tear up large patches of lawn with his new toy. I have always wanted a koi pond, so he dug a huge hole in the side of the yard. It has sat there for a couple years, just being a hole. When you have children, there is just always something that you need a lot worse than a koi pond, but finally, this year, I got the kit to do the pond. Oh, it was exciting. It took forever to get the liner set up properly, but I wanted this to be a nice pond. We got it all just so. The only thing left was just to get rocks to arrange around the lined hole in the ground.
My husband found a nice pile of rocks down in the woods. We had been having a long stretch of rainy weather, but one day the sun came out. Tim took this as a sign and hopped on the backhoe, heading down to the rock pile, Cara and I walking behind. Now, I will say that as we walked behind the backhoe, going deeper and deeper into the woods, there was a small voice inside me saying, "I don't know, this doesn't look so safe...this might not be the best idea that Tim has ever had." I ignored the voice. Tim's a pretty smart guy, not given to recklessness. He would not put his backhoe in danger. I told that little voice to shush and marched on.
When we got to the pile of rock, I do have to say, there WERE some mighty fine rocks there. We got the rocks we needed for the pond, but there were also a lot of flat rocks that would make a very nice walkway, so we loaded them up too. Tim started the backhoe up to head back home, but the big wheels just spun, digging themselves deeper and deeper into the mud. That little voice inside me began to speak again, and this time, I was having a harder time ignoring it, as my sense of foreboding grew. In one heartstopping moment, one of the rear wheels began to bobble up and down a little, and I knew what was going to happen. I started screaming my head off, just as loud as a person can scream with two hands over her mouth. But Tim heard me, and as the backhoe leaned to the side, he leapt off, climbing over the side as it rolled, not completely over, but up, hanging there on three wheels, tilted crazily.
We all stood staring at the scene in shock. When I saw Tim purposefully striding right back toward the backhoe, I started shrieking some more. He gave me a disgusted look, pushed a lever, swung the bucket as far to the left as it would go, and the backhoe dropped back onto 4 wheels. Determined not to ignore any small voices this time, I continued yelling for him to "Get away from that! leave it right where it sits! I mean it! I mean it! get back!" etc. etc. etc. To the untrained ear, it may have actually sounded as if I was furious at him. Any wife would understand that it was really love being expressed, lots and lots of love. As we walked out of the woods, I did not stop expressing my love for him at the top of my lungs. I loved without ceasing for some time. At one point, I did stop to draw a breath. Cara wryly interjected, "Hey, Tim, there it is...proof positive that Mom loves you more than the dog." Once love begins to flow, it's a hard thing to stop, so I turned to her, and unleashed a flood of love in her direction, too. Love was in the air, and it touched every living thing within earshot.
Well, I did calm down. I got lunch on the table, got Tim off to work, and Cara off to work. In the silence of the house, I began to consider the situation. I just knew that Tim would not be reasonable and simply leave the backhoe in the woods for all of eternity. I knew that he would want it back decorating his yard. Being the faithfilled woman that I am, I was worried sick, afraid that he would damage himself badly in the process.
That night, at a church meeting, it was asked if anyone had any prayer requests. Boy, did I ever. I poured my concern out to a group of sympathetic women, who clucked their tongues at the careless natures of men, related similar stories, and promised to pray. It was during that time that it ocurred to me that our neighbor down the road had a backhoe. Ken was also 80-odd years old. I figured that any man with a backhoe that had survived that many years would certainly have some handy tips to provide my husband. The women all assured me that going to talk to the neighbor on my own was certain to make Tim good and mad, but my mind was made up. I didn't care how mad it made him, I was going to ask Ken for help.
I left the church and on the way home stopped by to visit with our neighbors. His wife, Peryl, met me at the door and understood my fears straightaway. She comforted me by telling me about the time that Ken did flip his backhoe. Not partway. All the way. Laid that machine right on its side. Ken filled in the details. The only actual comfort that I was able to derive from their story was that Ken stood before my very eyes, none the worse for his misadventure. I made a mental note: Men with backhoes appeared to live to be 80 only by sheer good fortune and divine intervention. But Ken hopped on his four wheeler and went right off to take a look. He called later that night to assure me that the situation was not so dire as I thought, and that once the ground dried out, it would not be a big deal to get the backhoe unstuck and back home. He cheerfully offered to help.
Well, to make a long story short, it rained and rained and rained, but nearly two weeks later we were able to get the backhoe back home, only after unloading all of our rocks. In his quiet bullheaded way, Tim did it without help, not wanting to inconvenience Ken and Peryl. Later on that night, talking as we fell asleep, I told Tim that it really did not matter if I ever ended up with my little pond. I tried to explain to Tim how scared I was, heart stoppingly, stomach droppingly terrified to see that wheel bobble and I pleaded with him to never take such a risk again. In the darkness he said, "You know, when Columbus set off for the new world, he did not know what would happen. For all he knew, he was going to fall off the edge of the world. Men just do things. We don't stop to be afraid, we just do what we have our minds made up to do."
Incredulously, I gasped, "Surely, Tim, you are NOT trying to justify this thing?!!!!" He laughed in the darkness, and it happened again. The love began to flow, and it flowed at the top of my lungs...
This is a story that I wrote a long time ago. It pleased Ken and Peryl to no end. They loved it. They also featured in other newspaper columns. They are a couple in their 80's who have survived and thrived in harder times than we can imagine. Although we are neighbors, we've spent this winter holed up in our respective homes, Peryl having had a pacemaker installed, me dealing with my tiresome routine of fighting cancer. I was surprised to read in the paper that Peryl had passed away Friday morning at her home. It seems strange to think that I will not see little Peryl walking her daily mile. She was always such a busy little sprite, such an active little gal. Ken is a pretty tough guy who still runs his backhoe and his tractor, plants 100s of trees, cuts his own firewood, and runs. As tough as he is, losing his partner of 60 years is going to be a hard thing to take. There's not a lot that neighbors can do to fill that empty place.
My condolences to Ken.
Peryl, my dear, rest in peace.


MuseSwings said...

Thank goodness the Mister doesn't have a backhoe - I understand your fears exactly from when the Mister does his ballerina moves on a ladder -defying gravity and common sense.

Peryl must have been a pearl - nice story and tribute.

Mrs. Spit said...

Wonderful story. I could just see it. I could see them, which is the greatest memorial ever.

And I'm not building that pond anymore.

jeanie said...

lol - I love the mental image of you giving a little love! Hugs to you, and good luck with the new job and the newfound confidence with the computer and the new joy of nearly being free and clear.

BB said...

Oh how I laughed at your tidings of love. I too am a bit of a love-giver (but only when really appropriate and deserved). Heh.

Backhoes and Christopher Columbus... yeah. I can see that connection like TOTALLY, Tim. Uh huh.

Bob said...

I hope Peryl passed away peacefully. Great narrative. I too can see them. Can you also see you spewing out all that love.

A Novel Woman said...

Ah, wonderful story. And you made me laugh out loud, as I am another who expresses her love in that way. When I was a Brownie Leader, the girls changed my name from Tawny Owl to Screech Owl. I'm just sayin'.

And what IS it with men and machines? My husband, a dentist who therefore NEEDS his hands for work, went out and bought himself a chainsaw when I was out of town visiting my sister. Did you also get all the safety equipment that goes with it? You know, gloves, helmet, face shield, pants, etc.? Guess the answer.....

Pam said...

I'm so sorry about the loss of Peryl. I did really love the story!

Men, I fear, will be men, always.

I do love the 'expressions of love"!!!!!!

Kelly said...

I held my breath through much of your story. Fortunately the backhoe and really large equipment my husband has access to are not at our house so he doesn't get to "play" on them regularly. However, I do worry when he tells me things like how Bully (our large bull)comes rushing over to the tractor when he's putting out hay and eagerly butts it! I knew of someone who died in a tractor rollover once so it always gives me pause to think of one flipping!

Karen said...

Mic once tipped over his 4 wheeler in a muddy bog and I was so upset over what could have happened rather than seeing he was alright. It only took a minute to start laughing as his guy friends started telling the story of how they told him not to go the way he did but he was sure it would be fine.

Peryl sounds like a great neighbor, my condolences.

quid said...

What a wonderful story.

My dad's second job was a little cattle ranch he owned with my uncle Norman. Uncle Normie supplied the $$$, dad supplied the labor. The family is awash in the catastrophic stories of the enterprise that occurred whenever Normie decided to bestir himself and touch the equipment. (And another tractor bites the dust).

When it was over, my dad missed the tractors, the hay, and all the cows. He did not miss Normie.

I'm sorry about Peryl's death.