Monday, March 30, 2009

Bruce (June 5th, 2007) Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Over the years I’ve owned more than my share of lawn mowing equipment. It’s not because I am mechanically inclined – I am not. It has more to do with indecision and my quest to find the perfect machine. My inventory has included a tractor with 30 horses underneath the hood, a 72 inch mowing deck and a hydraulic wing with another 60 inches of cutting width. The friendly folks from the Department of Homeland Security confiscated it in the interests of public safety. I think the Smithsonian has it now.

One warm morning during our first summer on the farm I was pushing a lawn mower. Now that on its own is not unusual, but a mower with 19 inch cut can take all season to finish the job of cutting a large lawn in the country. I would have used the riding mower that I had at the time - but it would not start (I don’t know why and frankly I no longer care). So there I was pushing my non-self-propelled mower into the second hour of a sure to be five-plus hour job, when I looked up to see a man on a bicycle.

My first thought was “Good grief, can’t he see I’m busy?” but then I reconsidered and I did the polite thing and turned the mower off. “No, no. Turn it back on,” he commanded over the cries of the dying mower. Perhaps he was thinking of a modern version of Tom Sawyer and the whitewashed fence. I certainly was more than willing to let him have his turn at mowing my lawn.

After I got the mower started again (one pull mind you) I walked over to the stranger to introduce myself. But before I could say anything he lay his bike down, walked right past me and over to my mower. He bent down next to it and pulled a screw driver out if his pocket. With a few quick turns of his magical screwdriver the mower began to run with a new spirit. I didn’t even know that it needed to be fixed, but it no longer spit and sputtered. It sounded like a new mower (not that I ever had a new mower). Before I could thank him and offer him some liquid rewardment (a word which was coined by one of my kids when they were young meaning the opposite of punishment), he hopped on his bike and rode off into the distance, or at least back home.

Now I fully expected someone to walk up behind me and ask “Who was that kind stranger?” where I would have replied “I don’t know, but I wanted to thank him.” But all that happened was me yelling as he rode away “What, couldn’t you stand listening to it anymore?” He just shrugged his shoulders and kept pedaling.

It wasn’t too long after that where I got to meet him. Bruce is without a doubt a gift from God. I have often been outside losing a war with an internal combustion engine when Bruce mysteriously shows up. Sometimes he even drives over. Its always the same – I am outside either trying to start an engine, or just fighting to keep it running, when his keen ear alerts him to my plight. As soon as Bruce reaches for his screwdriver I know all will be well.

But I must admit I do feel a bit insecure with him in the neighborhood. Occasionally I will be foolishly attempting a repair on my own when my wife will casually ask “Why don’t you call Bruce?” Doesn’t she know? You don’t call Bruce – he just shows up.

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