“Richard your tea is ready,” I said, as the phone rang. “I’ll get it,” I said, handing him the mug.
“Hi Mrs. Cranium, it’s Zack. I am calling to say thank you for supporting my senior project.”
“Zack, it was our pleasure, you know that.”
“I also wanted to let you know we did the drawing last night for the Raffle and you won the grand prize.”
“Yes. So don’t be surprised when Purdy Top Soil calls you on Monday to make arrangements for the delivery.”
“Zack, remind me, how much was it?” I asked, taking a sip of tea from my mug.
“You will love it, they donated 35 yards.”
Hot tea sprayed the kitchen.
“Are you all right?” asked Zack.
Through the coughing and choking, I said, “I’ll be all right. You’re kidding about the 35 yards, right?”
“No ma’am. They donated 35 yards. Mom said she was so happy to hear you won it because maybe now you’ll plant grass instead of growing moss.”
Laughing, I said, “Zack, we gave up on grass two generation ago. But you can tell your mom for me, nice try.”
“She said you’d say that.”
“I’ll bet she did. Tell her hello for us and thanks for letting us know.”
Richard mopped up the kitchen counter.
“So what’s this about 35 yards?” he asked.
“That was Zack Taylor, those raffle tickets we bought to help him with his Senior project, well we won the top prize. Thirty-five yards of top soil to be exact.”
Richard looked at me for a moment, thinking. “You know, we could rent a small tractor and have a go at it. It could be a lot of fun.”
“Sure, while we’re at it, let’s invite all the neighbors and have a contest to see who’s the best at driving tractor,” I said.
“No, really, Fannie, I’m serious. The yard could use the soil and why not make a day of it.”
“Sure, once the gravel place sets up the delivery, call and see if we can get a Bobcat or something delivered for use over the following weekend and we’ll see which of the neighbors wants to play.”
The soil arrived on Tuesday in a large dump truck. It filled over half the driveway in with a ten-foot tall mound. The neighbors pooled at the end of the driveway discussing it amongst themselves.
Richard walked outside to join them.
“Hey, Richard, what the devil are you going to do with all this dirt?” asked Clarissa, pointing at the monument in the driveway.
“Funny you should asked, Clarissa,” said Richard, “we’ve decided to have a Bobcat Rodeo this weekend if we can get the tractor and spread it over the yard. We’ll fire up the barbecue afterwards and have a little party. You interested?”
Looks passed between the group. A united, “We’re in, what time do you want to start?”
“How about Saturday, around 11 a.m.? The Bobcat is supposed to be delivered at 10:00.”
The rental truck pulled up to our house at 10:15. Thirty seconds later the neighbors gathered around as the delivery driver backed the Bobcat off the end of the trailer.
After the five minute training session, the driver relinquished the keys to Richard, and said, “The tank is full of gas, you’ve got to initial here for the insurance coverage, and sign here to accept delivery.”
Richard signed. The driver climbed into his truck and drove out of the neighborhood leaving a whiff of diesel fume in his wake.
Richard climbed into the cab of the Bobcat. He put the key in the ignition, and ran his hand over the steering wheel. I thought I heard him whisper the word, “tractor” under his breath. He turned the key and the engine fired up. A puff of black exhaust cleared the tail pipe.
We all stepped back as he learned to maneuver the tractor. He raised and lowered the bucket.
The group said, “Oooh”.
He drove the tractor to the pile, lowered the bucket into the dirt, raised the bucket, backed up and turned to the group.
“Where to first?” he asked.
George, the engineer of the group said, “You might want to considered starting at the back of the yard and working your way to the front.”
He drove to the backyard, over a stump and around some planter boxes before he dumped the dirt.
Bunny and Clarissa stood next me watching Richard drive around the backyard as though an obstacle course. Raising and lowering the bucket as he went.
“It’s a good thing we got the insurance,” I said, running my fingers through my hair.
Taking her turn driving the tractor, Bunny said, with her refined Texas accent, “This is the way we do it in Texas, ladies, watch and learn.”
She drove halfway up the pile before lowering the bucket and getting her bucket of dirt. She revved the Bobcat into gear and drove over the pile.
We cheered when she made it down without rolling over.
George drove the tractor in circles in the driveway, reminding me of a mechanical bull, before going for the dirt pile.
In my excitement, I stalled the Bobcat twice. The steering wheel vibrated in my hands as the Bobcat drove over the yard. Misjudging the distance to the pile, I drove the bucket onto the top of the pile. Backing up, I lowered it and tried again.
The neighbors cheered.
Within three hours the pile disappeared. A dirt patch with scrape marks remained lining one side of the driveway.
George and Richard used the Bobcat’s bucket to level the dirt piles we spread over the yard.
“I have awards to present,” I said, when we finished. Pulling out a paper bag from the shed, I said, “For the most daring driving, this prize goes to Bunny.” I handed her a pink hard hat.
Clarissa said, “Hey Bunny, it’s pink, get over it.”
“For overcoming the obstacle course challenge, Richard, this is for you.” I handed him a plastic replica of Mount Rainier.
“Thank you, thank you very much,” he said, imitating Elvis taking a bow.
“And for demonstrating the most efficient use of a tractor while leveling soil, George, this is for you.” I handed him a slide rule we found at a garage sale.
“I used to have one just like this when I was in college,” he said, with excitement playing with his prize.
Bunny groaned. We laughed.
“And for the tidiest in moving dirt, Clarissa, this one is for you,” I said, handing her a whisk broom with dust pan.
“Oh, Fannie, you shouldn’t have,” she said, with a grin, accepting her prize.
By three o’clock the coals on the barbecue claimed the food.
So we sat back, relaxed, and waited for the moss to grow.