Lost a pedal?

Thu, 09/10/2020 - 5:00pm

This morning I heard a rumbling while I was still lolling around, discussing the upcoming day with my dog. It happens, sometimes the town road crew early to work, over the past weekend, engine noise punctuated by the slamming of little motorboats out on the ocean. This sound was coming up the road and Autumn was getting excited, her nose to the window, in anticipation.

It was not the orange Kubota of which I am convinced my dog dreams, but a big tractor hauling some odd piece of equipment, an unfamiliar boxy thing.

A few minutes later the same tractor was moving across the front field, haling a mower, a wide light green arrangement that awakened a long dormant memory, a friend’s father’s rotary, a John Deere it must have been by the color, but hardly as menacing sitting in its shed as she and her sister, town girls, wanted it to be. A rotary mower did not seem as threatening as the sickle bar my dad used to cut the fields, always prefaced by a collect-the-animals warning. Everywhere, so many people have horror stories of pets being hit by cars, and worse, but add a piece of farm equipment and the level of potential horror escalates.

Autumn went to investigate and bark and circle and bark some more, but thankfully kept her distance.

It was going on still when I corralled her and left the house. The mower just now drove through town, his tractor hauling the machine as I first saw it, its sides flipped up, to make it fit the narrow public road. This late summer mowing represented a welcome hint of normalcy.

Over time, our summer holidays have shifted even before this season, had changed from my childhood. The Fourth of July was a celebration, but very different when fireworks and parades were the things of other towns.

Usually a few people had small fireworks displays, as did several boaters, and there was a bonfire on the Narragansett Inn beach. We went to the docks, Payne’s New Harbor and Champlin’s, and the Town wharf and looked at the fancy vessels.

Victory Day, our only Rhode Island Only summer holiday, seemed bigger, before it dwindled to state and municipal, bank and post office workers. It was, back in another century, the busiest weekend by the ultimate standard, sewer flows.

And Labor Day felt the biggest of all, the Old Harbor inner basin packed in a way that has not been allowed for decades, a solid mass of boats, the marinas rafted several deep when Payne’s and Champlin’s had only fixed piers and there was no Boat Basin. The summer passenger carriers still landed in the New Harbor, and a handful of fishing boats dotted the basin below the National where there are great rafts of pleasure craft today.

Then the Fourth became bigger and bigger, the V-J Day lived larger in our memories than current reality, and Labor Day swung around before schools started, the breath of the season for vacationing families with children shrank, camps eating into early July, late August lost to orientations and classes.

The weather was extraordinary this past weekend, better than it seems it has been in a long time, with neither storm nor forecasts of storm starting a week earlier and causing mass cancellations. It brought to mind a year docks were pulled and boats raced back to their winter yards to be hauled in anticipation of a hurricane two weeks before Labor day, too much work — all for a storm that never materialized — to be undone for an uncertain holiday.

Perhaps it was more of the one saving grace of this summer of 2020, more weather that allowed people to stay outside, or for windows to stay open to the fresh air flowing off the ocean, more often than usual from the east, from the wide open Atlantic.

But it was Labor Day and there was a single bicycle pedal beside the curb, perhaps fallen from a load of badly loaded trash except most haulers are more careful, or from a load of used bicycles already being trucked off to winter storage, but the alternatives are. . . interesting. Was there someone who went to get on his bike Monday morning after a hard Sunday night only to discover he had only one petal? The wildly inaccurate analogy to a little boat with a usable paddle on only one side, going in circles, and especially near the Rebecca Roundabout/ Rotary/labyrinth in disguise was difficult to dismiss. Or someone was riding around, one foot pedaling a lot harder, while the other seemed to meet no more resistance than thin air would provide. I even started looking at bicycles to be sure they were not missing a pedal.

It was Labor Day; a single pedal at the curb was more normal than most of 2020.