October 14, 2013, by Todd Neva
The sun set as I was mowing the last acre of grass.
An hour and a half earlier, Kristin left with the kids for AWANA after warning me to stay in the house lest I fall outside. I rebuffed her, saying, “It’s a beautiful evening, and it’s supposed to rain tonight. I want to mow while I can.”
“You better take your phone. If you’re not home when I come back, I’ll come looking for you,” Kristin said, not happy with my stubbornness.
“Getting on is the most dangerous part, and I’ll do that before you leave.”
I used ten minutes of twilight to finish the lawn. It was getting cold. With the sun gone, it felt like the temperature dropped 10° from the already chilly 65° autumn day. My weak fingers stiffened and became virtually useless, but I finished nonetheless, and then headed over to my partially completed shed. There was a 40% forecast of rain that night, so I wanted to store the mower.
Approaching the shed, I saw that there was a ladder blocking the entrance, as Kristin had earlier stored the apple cider press in the shed attic. Stiff and cold, I cautiously stepped off the mower, being sure to have my phone in my pocket in case I fell. I pushed the ladder out of the way, then wobbled back to the mower anxious of the ascent back onto it. I thought, “I best take the phone out of my pocket, because if I need to use it, I won’t be able to get it back out once I sit down.” So I set the phone on the seat, put my left foot onto the mower deck, kicked up with my right foot to get some momentum—then fell backwards.
My head slammed against the hard-panned ground. I was dazed, but okay. Then I looked up to see my phone still sitting on top of the mower, with the headphones cord torn free with the plug still in the jack. I scooted on my back closer to the lawnmower and attempted to reach up to the phone—arm not long enough. I tried to sit up, but just couldn’t muster enough strength. Tried to sit up again. I couldn’t do it.
I repeated called for help, “ERIK!,” hoping that Kristin’s cousin was outside his house, a quarter of a mile on the other side of the field, smoking a cigarette. I called, “LANI!” I called, “DAVE!” I couldn’t see my in-law’s driveway from my vantage point, face against the ground and a six-inch mound of the drain field between me and their property, but they were either in their house or gone by now to their Bible study.
As I yelled out, coyotes howled retorts. They seemed to surround me, cries coming from the West, the North, and the East. They could hear fear in my voice, I imagined. I heard rustling in the woods to the North, something that sounded big, but probably just a squirrel. I heard faint barking from Comet, our four-month-old golden-doodle, coming from inside our house.
I didn’t have much time left before it got dark and much colder. It must’ve been quarter to eight, and Kristin wouldn’t be home until eight-thirty. I rolled over to the dog house and attempted to use it as leverage to get up. I couldn’t do it. I saw the dog’s leash hanging from his dog run and grabbed hold of that in another attempt to get up. I couldn’t do it. I looked back at the lawnmower, thinking that the engine may provide some warmth if I had to wait forty-five minutes for Kristin. Then I looked over to the house, one hundred fifty feet away.
“I can roll to the house and at least take cover on the patio,” I thought. “The edge of the house is one hundred fifty feet away. The garage is twenty-six feet wide, and another twenty-six feet long. That’s about two hundred feet, and I can cover nearly four feet per roll, an advantage of my girth, finally.” I did the math—it would be about fifty to sixty rolls. “I can do it.”
Roll after roll, I rolled until I couldn’t throw my right leg over anymore. Then I scooted around to roll the other way, already more than halfway there. I rolled up a small hill to the driveway. I rolled across the crushed mine rock driveway. I rolled down the sidewalk alongside the garage to the patio. Comet barked ecstatically. With my last bit of strength, I kicked off my shoes, flung my leg up onto the latch of the front door, and opened it.
Comet rushed out with his tail wagging and licked my face. He grabbed a chew toy and expected me to play with him. Then he saw my shoes, grabbed one and took off running, because he knew he shouldn’t have it. I scooted into the house, called the dog back in, hoping he’d bring my shoe. He came, but without the shoe. I closed the door and rested on the floor of the vestibule for a few minutes. I’m not sure how long the trek took, but the sky was dark and the house was darker. I reached up with my foot and turned on the lights.
I thought to myself, “This isn’t going to look good when Kristin comes home. She warned me.”
I scooted and rolled farther into the house and found a comfortable place to rest on the living room floor. I made a few more attempts to get up using couch cushions that were left on the floor by some earlier fort builder. But even with the props, I was still too exhausted. Kristin would likely be home soon.
Another five minutes passed, and I heard the door open. As Kristin came through the kitchen, I calmly asked, “Hi, how was AWANA?”
“Oh, you fell! Well, I’m glad it was inside on the living room rug.”
Later that night, I recounted the story to Kristin as Isaac listened on. “Your dad’s a fighter, Isaac. Real strength is what you have up here,” I said as I leaned my head down and tapped it with my finger.