Ted Emerson looked like hell. I thought he might be dying when he showed up today to explain why he couldn’t brushhog the farm this weekend. He was hunched over and in great pain. “Oh, it’s nothing,” he said, “My tractor just rolled over on me. Doctor Pender says I can work in a week.”
If you ask me why I love living here in the country, in Washington County, New York, at the top of the list would be knowing people like Ted Emerson, the first Big Man In A Truck who showed up to help me live my life when I moved up here.
Ted is the go-to brush hogger in these parts; he shows up in his tractor, lets himself into the pasture, and hogs all three of our fields so they can grow up healthy and green next Spring and eventually mails a bill.
He is 100 percent honest and reliable. He opens and closes the gates, never lets an animal out, and never needs to ask for directions. I don’t think he would take it anyway; he knows what he is doing. I knew something was wrong today because he never stopped to chat while working that tractor, only when he drove it into the marsh and couldn’t get out.
I called him two weeks ago to ask him to brush hog the farm again. The heavy rains have nourished a lot of tall weeds.
I saw him pull up in a red truck with no tractor today, and I knew something was off. He looked like hell, walking stiffly, his arm in a bandage and a cast; he made me feel like a 20-year-old jogger. I thought he might be terminally ill. I should have known better. I doubt Ted will ever die.
Maria got out first, and Ted told her he wanted to speak to me. I was apprehensive when I saw him. We invited him into the house.
He told me his tractor rolled over on him last week and he thought he would die underneath it. He managed to squeeze out (he was trapped underneath it), drove himself to the doctor (he doesn’t do ambulances), and came by to apologize for not coming right away to brushog the farm. He could barely stand up; every breath seemed to hurt.
He was sore, and he picked up bronchitis this week and couldn’t help coughing.
He believes he owes his life to a religious charm a relative gave him as a Christmas present(below). “I believe in God,” he told me today, “but I’m not religious. But I believe in this now; I’ll always keep it in my pocket.”
It reads: “Oh, Dear Guardian Angel, protect me wherever I go, and keep me from harm’s way…” As soon as Ted left, I went online and bought a Guardian Angel charm; I’ll always carry it with me. I believe in Ted; he has rolled his tractor more than I can count. And he never stops smiling or laughing about it.
This injury was severe; he wanted me to know about it.
I could see the pain on his face when he coughed; he said it was the worst he’d ever felt. I assumed he would not be able to come this year, but when I asked him how long it would take him to heal, he said about a week. I told them the grass and weeds weren’t going anywhere and that he should take as much time as needed.
I have no doubt he will be back in a week or so, probably with one of his many grandkids in the tractor with him for support. He has no conception of resting.
Ted and I have a warm history. We took a liking to each other when I first moved here from the city. Early on, I learned that to work well with big men in trucks, I had to respect and appreciate them and never pretend I knew what I was doing, which was easy for me because I didn’t and didn’t. Ted took pity on me. I also always paid my bills, a serious matter up here. The big men always tell me the richer their customers are, the longer it takes to get paid.
The best of these men want to help people like me and watch over them. I am grateful to them. I never cause them trouble, and pay instantly. They all know how to laugh and not take life too seriously.
Ted never waits for me to pay the same day he brushogs; he sends a handwritten invoice a month or two later. “I know where to find you,” he says, laughing when I ask him if he wants a check immediately.
Ted is a wild cowboy in those tractors. I pleaded with him not to drive too close to the march in the north pasture; it was wet and soft. He laughs at the idea that there is anything out in the field that he can’t handle. Every year, he would drive into the lot and get stuck. His son would usually show up in another tractor – brushhogging is a family business – and pull him out.
It became a joke with us; I would scold him and beg him not to drive into the pasture, and he would get his ego up and get stuck every year. I knew I could never tell him what to do. I came to love Ted and was tremendously relieved when he explained that he looked worse than he was. But he couldn’t laugh off the pain in his face.
Since he is one of the people I am so fond of, I told him I needed to take his picture. He was waiting for that as if it happened every day. I said I also needed one of his charms.
He asked me why I was hobbling, and I told him about my brain injury, back injury, and foot troubles. I said I was healing.
According to the doctors, I said I had a brain bleed and nearly died. He shook his head, and we went outside for a photo and shook hands. I was delighted to see him. As he limped stiffly towards his truck, he turned to me and said, “how are you folks doing.”
“Fine,” I said, “we are just fine. You take care of yourself; you are needed!”