Editor’s Note: This humorous story comes to us from Judith’s (wise and witty) husband, Jurgen F. Haver.
There are things we donâ€™t identify as stupid until after weâ€™ve done them.Â We blindly act with no idea that disaster is approaching us at warp speed.Â I learned this on a humid, mid-August day in 1946.Â I was a city kid spending a summer vacation on his Unce Johnâ€™s Nebraska farm.
Uncle John had just told me to get on the tractor.Â â€œDrive the hay wagon up to the house.Â Iâ€™ll take the truck and meet you there. Weâ€™ll have supper and then unload the bales. You do remember how to drive the tractor like I taught you, donâ€™t you?â€
Hey, does 14-year-old know how to drive a tractor?Â â€œYou bet!Â No problem!â€
As often happens, arrogance precedes stupid mistakes.Â Drive the tractor up to the house.Â Simple request.Â What could go wrong?Â All I had to do was negotiate a few hundred feet of hay field and turn up the road.Â Then, a half-mile drive and Iâ€™d be eating supper.Â What I didnâ€™t anticipate was the three hours of back-breaking work my future held.
We had just spent two and a half sweaty hours loading bales of hay onto the wagon.Â I was exhausted and glad to be going back to the house.Â I savored the bitter bite of my Aunt Paulineâ€™s homemade lemonade. I conjured up images of supper.
I put my uncleâ€™s John Deere in gear and pointed it toward the road.Â I loved that tractor.Â Back then, even city kids knew the putt-sputter of those early John Deereâ€™s as they hiccupped their way through life.Â It comforted me to hear that big green machine sounding like it was supposed to sound.Â Still, my mouth was dry, my palms moist and, to be honest, I was a little scared. I wasnâ€™t as sure of my driving skills as Iâ€™d pretended.
At the road, I drove the tractor through the drainage ditch and made a sharp right.Â The tractor shuddered.Â I heard a sharp crack, like a big branch breaking off an oak tree in a wind storm.Â I looked behind me. No wagon.
I drove up to the house.Â What else could I do?Â Uncle John was on the porchÂ in his three-generation-old rocker.Â He said, â€œWhereâ€™s the wagon?â€
â€œCapsized,â€ I said and explained what happened.
He smiled, â€œNo problem.Â Thereâ€™s new tongue in the barn. Get it.Â Go back.Â Put it on the wagon.Â Set the wagon back on its wheels.Â Hitch her to the tractor. Load those hay bales and come up to the house.Â Weâ€™ll keep some supper warm for you.â€Â Thatâ€™s where three hours of back-breaking misery came in.
When I finished I drove up to the house.Â Iâ€™ll admit my auntâ€™s lemonade was the best ever.Â Â Best because it brought an end to a painful August day.
So painful I vowed to anticipate all the â€œstupidsâ€ I might make during my life. And I vowed to learn Uncle Johnâ€™s other two big lessons are obvious:
â€¢Â Â Â He thought anger was not productive so he didnâ€™t get angry.Â Iâ€™ve learned he was right.
â€¢Â Â Â He did think taking responsibility for and fixing your own mistakes was productive.Â Right again!
Oh, almost forgot, I did learn to negotiate drainage ditches without tipping over the tractor or the wagon.Â But, I did not manage to avoid all the â€œstupidsâ€ that have crept into my life.