As many people know, I’ve been nigh useless with Lyme disease for many years. As a result, my yard and the exterior of my house have gone to ruin. Seriously. The weeds are higher than the corn down the road apiece, and the bittersweet, normally a hundred yards from the house, has choked two fruit trees and a magnolia and is now making a bid for the sun room.
Now that I’m better, I’ve been reclaiming my yard and my house. Today (drum roll) I reclaim my tractor.
Bear in mind, this orange monster was old and rusty when we bought it twelve years ago. It plows the driveway all winter and moves stumps in the summer, and somehow it manages to thrive on neglect. That is, until a few months ago when it started leaking hydraulic fluid from the hoses, from the tank, and from one of the pistons. I did what any clueless person would do; I parked it and ignored it and used the wheelbarrow in its place, hoping time might heal all wounds.
Finally, with the help of friends, I located a tractor repairman. 😀 The tractor was scheduled for a Monday morning pickup, and I’d promised to charge the battery and start it up and look for wasp and hornet nests.
At 2 am, I remembered my promise.
I ran outside in the dark in my underwear and yanked up the hood, inadvertently locating one small white-faced hornet nest.
A can of hornet spray later, the white faces were no more, and I was able to hook up the charger. Then I looked all over that tractor with an admittedly dim flashlight and eyes that were largely incapable of focusing, and I declared it hornet free.
This morning, I looked again for nests. Then I started the tractor up, found I had enough hydraulic fluid to lift the bucket (yay!), and I drove it a short distance so it wouldn’t look quite so pathetic sitting amongst the weeds.
Still no hornets. I danced a jig.
Then, concerned that the tractor might not start without a charger, and because I can never leave well enough alone, I hopped up on the seat and headed down the driveway. I figured I ought to park the tractor next to the barn, near the road and close to electricity so we could jumpstart it if necessary.
So far, so good. I put the tractor in first gear and drove slowly down the driveway, watching dragonflies and hummingbirds buzzing past, and feeling like a farm girl. It was a perfect morning with bright sunshine and cornflower blue sky, mare’s tails, birds singing. I almost didn’t notice the hornets massing along the tractor’s arm about a foot from my left hand.
Because I am so very brave where stinging insects are concerned, and because I can’t be bothered with seat belts, I leaped right out of my seat and over the right wheel, leaving the tractor rolling down the driveway alone. About the moment I hit the pavement, I realized the flaw in my plan. An unmanned tractor can do a lot of damage in a hurry.
On the other hand, the last time I was stung was three years ago, on my pinkie toe. I swelled all the way to my hip. I really didn’t want to find out what might happen if I were to be stung somewhere more important.
So I ran alongside the tractor, trying to reach the shut-off lever while flinging my hands at every dragonfly and every hummingbird and every mosquito. I’m just glad I didn’t knock some poor hummer right out of the sky what with all the flailing and screeching and general ninny-ass-ed-ness.
Thankfully, I grabbed the lever before anything got run over, which would have been a relief to my neighbors, had they suspected they were in my path. Then I ran like heck back to the house, rummaged under the sink for the new can of hornet spray guaranteed to shoot twenty-seven feet and, armed and dangerous, I sprinted back.
Once again, I crawled all around that tractor. Same as last time, I found no nests. There was no way I was starting up the orange monster again without knowing where those hornets came from.
They were not in my head. I was sure of this. Even sleep-deprived, I don’t hallucinate hornets, not anymore, not since I got the Lyme treated and under control. So there.
That’s when I noticed the tractor’s arms are hollow.
I sprayed into the left one.
Instantly wasps came boiling out. A few flew away, but most died in a matter of seconds. The right tractor arm had a similar opening, so I sprayed that one, too, and sure enough, more wasps came bubbling out.
I found a few more little holes farther down the arms and sprayed those as well.
More wasps. Then I ran back to the house and got ant spray – the kind that mists rather than shoots. I sprayed a fine ant-killing drizzle all over the tractor, under the hood, and all through the undercarriage.
Then I held my breath, climbed up onto the seat, and started that sucker up. I let it idle in neutral while I flung myself to the ground, dashed fifty yards, and watched from a safe distance.
Being a self-proclaimed chicken, I ran back to the house one more time and grabbed Benadryl and water. I wasn’t taking chances. Then, more scared than I care to admit, I climbed aboard, two pink pills clutched in my fist, and I drove to the barn. Got buzzed by a few yellow jackets, but they tend to nest below ground and not in tractors, so they were likely just out foraging. I parked the orange monster, shut it off, climbed down with surprising decorum, and ran away.
About five minutes ago, the tractor left on a flatbed trailer, and it appeared to be hornet free. Fingers crossed it returns that way.