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COLUMN: Zucchini gift leads to tale about elderly relative

IT COULD have ended as a disaster, but it turned out to be a funny story.

Sunday night, I took some squash, zucchini and beans up to an elderly relative’s house.

Charles Lewis (Lewis is his middle name but he’s always gone by dual monikers) will be 93 in September, but he still gets around fairly well, even though he was afflicted with polio as a child.

Now, even at 92, Charles Lewis is a feisty old booger who still comes up to my farm numerous times each winter and hunts deer (he’s one of the best shots with a rifle I’ve ever seen).

And he still helps his 82-year-old wife, Louise (who looks and acts 60), mow their acre of yard and keep the place looking as neat as a pin. He, of course, uses the riding mower (Louise would probably tell you that he always made her do the push mowing).

While we were sitting around bringing each other up to date on family matters, Louise began telling me the story of an incident that occurred the previous week.

A friend had changed the oil in one of their mowers and apparently spilled some on the cement floor of their covered parking area. The next day, Charles Lewis decided that he was going out to clean it up.

So he got a rag and went out there but, with his legs being as weak as they are, he couldn’t bend down or even kneel. So Charles Lewis commandeered his wife’s push mower and sat down on the motor in an effort to reach the greasy spot.

To those of us who have known Charles Lewis all our lives, this was pretty much par for the course for him. In other words, he didn’t really think the situation out—and believe me, he is by no means senile; he’s as sharp as a tack.

Well, maybe not quite as sharp as a tack because if he had been, he likely wouldn’t have sat down on the front of a push mower.

You can guess what happened. When Charles Lewis leaned forward to wipe the spot, the mower began to roll backwards and that old boy wound up falling in the same direction.

Now Charles Lewis has plenty of padding so he didn’t get hurt but he did get wedged into the lawn mower handle and began yelling (I shudder to think what he might have said).

Louise came running and, despite having a bad back, tried to get him up, but to no avail. (Remember that padding?)

So there they were. Charles Lewis on his back wedged into the lawn mower handle and Louise wondering what to do.

“Just call 911,” Louise said Charles Lewis told her.

Well, she knew he wasn’t hurt and she would have probably felt like a fool calling 911 and telling the dispatcher that her husband was wedged into a lawn mower handle. She decided to call her brother, who lived about 2 miles up the road, instead.

Naturally, as always happens in a crisis, he wasn’t home.

“You should have called me,” I said.

“You were on the list,” Louise replied.

But before she got to me she called my old buddy Smoky Nicholson, who lives 2 miles closer. Smoky has a team of the finest mules in the area, and I suppose Louise figured that if Smoky couldn’t lift Charles Lewis out of that lawn mower handle he could hitch up his team and do the job.

Now, all this had to take a good 20 minutes, and all the while Charles Lewis is stuck there griping and waiting for help.

Well, according to Louise, Smoky (who is about 80 himself) arrived without his mules and saved the day. He grabbed the lawn mower handle, lifted up as you would raise the handles of a wheelbarrow and got Charles Lewis back on his feet. He was fit as a 92-year-old fiddle.

Louise said that when she later informed her daughter of the incident, the first thing the woman asked was if her daddy was OK.

When she found out he was fine, her second question was, “Did you get a picture of that?”

Charles Lewis wedged into a lawn mower handle! That would have been a picture worth seeing!

If she had called me I know I would have brought my camera along!

A couple of semi-related footnotes here: A friend explained something to me the other day.

“Do you know why country people lock their cars in the summer?” he asked.

I said that I didn’t.

“To keep other country people from loading them up with squash and zucchini,” he replied.

He made me feel a little guilty.

Secondly, I have to explain something that needs explaining every year. Those who are amazed that we are having 90-degree days need to understand that that’s how the system works.

It gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Can you repeat that? Hot in the summer! It has happened before and it will happen again.

Someone needs to explain this to the TV weathermen, too. They don’t seem to understand this fact and act as if the world is going to end when the thermometer touches 90.

Also, three days of 90-degree heat does not constitute a heat wave in these parts. Three days of 90-degree heat are just three hot summer days.

Peace, Brother.

Donnie Johnston:


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