I’m not saying brush hogging is as good as sex, I’m saying that sex is as good as brush hogging.
I learned that Saturday, when I became a man.
Brush hogging? It’s when you put a farm tractor between your legs with a massive, throbbing rotary mower on the back, and enjoy the pleasures of heaven.
Like I said, this happened for me Saturday.
It was my first time.
And she was not gentle.
Some five years ago I bought a small piece of country land, eight acres of hillside swamp mostly choked with bushes and weeds and crap. I want to turn it into a family recreational area – cabin, pond, bonfire, shooting range – but mostly all I’ve done so far is plant apple trees.
But this year I’m getting serious. My little children are getting older and my bigger children are probably soon to have children of their own, so I’ve got to get this place done. I’ve got one guy building me a shed and another guy getting me some Grade-A windows for it and from another guy I’m getting a little wood stove and it looks like I’ve negotiated an agreement with my wife to earmark money for the bulldozer man to put me in a pond this summer.
Fingers crossed and prayers said, this is the year things get done and the enjoyment truly begins.
So I had to do something about the brush.
I was thinking about that a couple of weeks ago driving through a little town between my house and the country land. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign for a new rental place.
That’s when I saw her.
My nostrils flared.
Blue, compact, nice backend, biggest, softest tires I’d ever seen.
I turned around and went back. I picked up a pamphlet.
And I began to dream.
And Saturday that dream came true.
I met the man at the rental place early. We walked around her and he answered my questions, explained how things worked. On the right, there are two pedals – the one with the forward arrow makes it go forward, the one with the backward arrow makes it go backward. There are brakes on the left. Brakes are for pansies. The knob to turn on the mower is on the dash, the control for the big bucket or loader on the front as at your right hand. The throttle is a little lever on the side of the dash. Try to keep it around 2,000 rpm, he said.
Then he loaded her on a trailer and hauled her out to my country land. A handshake and a wave later and he was gone and the clock on my eight hours had started to run.
That’s when I became a man.
That’s when, in the true spirit of Earth Day, I wrought havoc on the natural world. It was man versus nature and I had diesel on my side. I’m a Republican, we clear brush – ask Reagan or George W.
I picked a stretch of shoulder-high willows and aimed for the middle. Lumbering along at a steady pace, it was like a knife through butter, and behind me was a smooth stretch of order and discipline.
That’s when the bliss set in.
That’s when I was initiated into the wonderful, intimate, private beauty of the relationship between a man and his tractor.
If tractors had boobs, men would never go home to their wives.
It was that good.
You very quickly develop a finesse, where the slightest touch of foot or hand moves this or reverses that. Lift a little, turn here, bear down there. It was as much fun as the Tonka trucks of boyhood, except this one made its own noise.
It was amazing what it was able to accomplish. On my little plot of land, I pushed back the brush and cleared up space that nearly doubled the open, usable area. Instead of a useless bramble, it was an airy, spacious park.
I opened areas for more fruit trees and berry bushes, I put in a couple of shady places for picnic tables, I made paths that tied the land together.
All while almost literally yelling for pure glee and enjoyment.
Do you know why poor people use crack? Because they can’t afford a tractor to go brush hogging.
It was a direct flight back to my redneck roots. I honestly believe at one point I heard the voice of Jase from “Duck Dynasty” yelling, “Give it more gas!” in his whiney drawl.
At first I was gentle.
Then not so much.
At the end I was pulling her hair and calling her a dirty girl.
That’s when things got hard for the hawthorn trees.
Just four of them.
One needed to move so I had room to get my shed brought in. The other three were clustered under a beautiful maple tree where I thought my kids would like to read in the shade.
Obviously, you can’t mow down a tree with a brush hog.
But there is that blade on the front.
And after a while a man does start to wonder, “What happens if I run into that tree with the blade?”
Over and over. High and low. This side and that side.
And then, what if you try to pry that blade in under the roots and then lift it.
Well, the tree ultimately goes horizontal.
At that point, you literally feel the hair growing on your chest.
Sure, women can brush hog, but only if they want to grow a mustache and start watching "Sports Center."
Somehow, that marvelous piece of machinery turns diesel fuel into testosterone and infuses it into the seat of your pants.
I only got it stuck three times.
Once was in mud, and I was able to push myself back out with the bucket. The other two times were in the middle of the woods, making trails, when I got it wedged between trees. Each time my initial panic was having to show the rental man where I had marooned his tractor. But each time I found that a little bit of back and forth, in and out, forward and back, finally got me free.
As the clock ran down on my eight hours and the tank was emptying out, I drove her back out by the road and parked her. Then I walked bowlegged to my truck.
At last, I was a man.
I might have to buy some more land, so I’ll have more brush to clear.
There might be things more enjoyable than brush hogging, but none of them are legal, and all of them will send you to hell.