YOU CAN’T CATCH ME

FARMER BEN AND HIS RUN AWAY TROY

My latest book, HALLEY, awarded 2015 Jefferson Cup Honor for Historical Fiction, awarded the Moonbeam Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction, and awarded the 2016 Frank Yerby Award for Fiction. Available at: NewSouth Books: www.newsouthbooks.com/halley and Amazon.

Every spring it is the same.  Right before my eyes, my husband turns into Farmer Ben.  Forgotten are last year’s butterbeans that put out shiny leaves and vines and didn’t produce enough beans for seeds.  Forgotten are the 2021 tomato plants that gave us only enough unrotted tomatoes for a few BLT sandwiches.  Forgotten, too, are all those hours of hoeing, gathering, shucking, and shelling.  Oh, and let’s not forget disintegrating farm equipment like the tiller that’s too ancient to buy parts for except on eBay or roadside flea markets.  It’s SPRING!  All the world is new, and this year things are going to be different.  Smell that soil!  See how all of nature is putting out new life!  Time to work on the TILLER.

My husband’s tiller, like Benjamin himself, is one of a kind.  And it’s older than him and me both.  It’s a Troy-Bilt from way back “when they made things right.”  According to Farmer Ben, there isn’t a tiller on the market that could compare to this one.  I think he’s right.  Mainly our tiller stays sprawled in the shop, an oily, dirty mass of fearsome metal, surrounded by disassembled parts that are being cleaned and greased to be reattached somewhere.  With each reassemble there seem to be parts left over, but I’m never worried.  Benjamin has assured me those parts weren’t needed anyway.  And apparently he’s right—every year he gets that old tiller back on the job.

This year was no exception.  Benjamin got the Troy-Bilt chugging along on the day the almanac—or maybe his internal clock—said corn should be planted.  He always plants the corn “over on the hill” in the direction of our farmer neighbor, James Guy.  I’m not sure whether he’s hoping some of that Guy farming magic will assure a good crop, or maybe he’s trying to provide us exercise with trekking back and forth when the corn is ready to harvest.

Well, this year the tiller made it to the planting site, which seemed like miracle enough—for a moment.  Then Farmer Ben tried to shift it into low gear only to find the gear shifter stuck fast.  Easily solved.  Lifting his foot, he stomped the lever.  Suddenly all hell broke loose.  The tiller leaped up and took off like a scalded dog, leaving Benjamin sprawled in the dust.  By the time he could get to his feet. the tiller had gained considerable yardage and was still accelerating toward the highway.  Freedom was in sight!

“Whoa! ” Benjamin yelled, taking off after the runaway despite his bad knee. 

Bouncing with joy, the Troy-Bilt seemed to be picking up speed with every second, and to add insult to injury, had started slinging dirt clods back at him.  It seemed bound and determined to hit the road, Jack.  Benjamin swears he heard it calling, “Run, run fast as you can.  You can’t catch me—I’m the Gingerbread Troy!” 

Just then the tiller jolted into the ditch beside the highway and slung off one wheel, which went scudding across the pavement, just missing a passing car.  Fumes still belched from the crippled tiller and its motor still roared, but the great escape had been thwarted.  

Well, it’s back to the shop for the ancient Troy-Bilt.  Once again, Farmer Ben will exercise his superpowers to get the tiller to do its job for one more season.

And perhaps he’ll check out some of those leftover parts from previous repairs.

          Maybe…                    Well, it could happen.– 

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