Out there in the wilderness on my very first day alone, I had envisioned a day of writing, only there was a backhoe to master, a hill to work out and a road to put in – I thought I had better start early.
With the driveway Greg had already put in at my back, I had three options off the hill. Right, left or straight ahead. On closer inspection, it became clear that I only really had one option. The right side of the hill dipped away far too steeply to consider, dropping into a gully that a person might climb but not walk. To the left was a little better, except for when the rocks formed a cliff drop closer to the bottom. So, straight ahead it was, steep as it was, or give up entirely and find another way into the block.
I wanted to keep the trees, also, so needed to find a suitable way through them that wouldn’t take me over the edge of something and leave in a crumpled wreckage at the bottom of the hill. It was morning still and the sun was barely up. Greg wouldn’t be home again until after dark, and I didn’t want to spend the day trapped in wreckage.
First off, though, I had to learn those controls. What did what? For starters, the pedal was a three-pronged monstrosity – each prong doing something different as it titled the main pedal in a different direction, and of course it had different levers, which raised and extended the arm into different configurations, raised and tilted the bucket at the front or the scoop at the back, and lowered or raised the feet that helped steady the machine through certain operations. All of these jolted the machine alarmingly if employed too roughly. It needed a gentle touch.
With that sorted and a plan of action in mind, I lowered the bucket, aimed between two trees and started off over the brow of the hill.