My good friends know that I have hated doing yardwork my entire life.
They know that, for most of our married life, Saint Mary does that sort of thing for us–not me. The truth is that she enjoys working in the yard and I don’t, so she does. I get the usual jokes from my friends about making my wife mow the lawn. “Hey, it’s springtime. Better have Saint Mary get that mower tuned up so you can watch the game.” Etcetera. I’ve given up trying to explain.
Our good friends Bob and Donna have their lawn and gardens displayed all over social media, and they are beautiful. So is their lawn.
I looked at the photos of Bob and Donna’s work, and thought to myself, “I can do that.”
It turns out I can’t. It turns out I have no business trying to be horticulturally creative. I have learned that I shouldn’t attempt to do something unless I actually know something about it first. I learned this lesson in my workshop. I’m not quite sure why I didn’t remember it a hundred feet away in my lawn. I don’t have a green thumb. I don’t have a brown thumb. As it turns out, when it comes to nurturing green things to life in my yard, I apparently don’t even have opposable thumbs.
In the past few years, we paid someone to mow the lawn. We were both busy and it was just easier. When we retired, Mary said we ought to do it ourselves. I came up with the perfect answer. Knowing her parsimonious control of the family pocketbook, I said “Tell you what. I’ll start mowing the lawn if I have a riding lawnmower.” And she agreed.
OK, so we went lawnmower shopping last year. Knowing full well that a small, light-weight push mower could do the job in about twenty minutes at a cost of about $150, I opted for a huge riding armored tank with zero turn capability, dual handles with gears and pulleys and chrome side-pipes with smoke shooting into your atmosphere. If there’s smog in St. Joseph, it’s probably my doing. When I saw it on the showroom floor I fell in love. I said “There. That is what we need.” Saint Mary held tightly to her purse. I wish you could have seen the look on her face. It was pure adoration. I’ve seen it a lot over the years.
It’s important that you know the geography here–the lay of our land. Our property is on a curve in the road, so it’s a wedge, a triangle, a piece of pie approximately the size of a postage stamp. This property doesn’t require mowing once a week or even once a month. This property is small enough that you could probably walk out there and stare it into submission. The zero-turn feature turned out to be a good idea, because this machine barely fits in our lawn. I basically have to spin it around once and my lawn is mowed. Oh, and I had to have a shed built so we had a place to put this thing. I don’t want to say what all this cost me. I’m pretty sure my grandchildren will get it paid.
The day they delivered this thing, I was off and running. I think it took me about five minutes. That didn’t seem like much fun to me. But I discovered this lever thing. You can use it to cut the grass higher or lower. Well, I decided on lower. As the summer progressed, I couldn’t wait to mow the lawn, because it had grown about a half-millimeter in my opinion and needed a light trim. And mind you, I developed a tendency to cut my lawn about every two hours. Got to stay ahead of the game. That’s always been my motto since I became a lawn expert. Shorter and shorter. Mary said “You’re cutting it too short. You’re going to kill it.” I tried to tell her how much fun it was to mow my lawn. She said “If that’s the case, turn the blade off and just ride around out there, Mr. Green Jeans.”
We have wonderful neighbors. There’s Joyce on one side, Steve and Jenni on the other. And Frank and Helen down near the point on the piece of pie. They all have really nice-looking lawns. I’ve noticed most of them get it done by walking. Behind a mower. I’m pretty sure that, when this Rube Goldberg monstrosity is whirling about my tiny homestead, with me in the cockpit, my headphone ear protection clamped on my head and my cold drink in the cupholder, they are probably saying things like “Seriously?” and “Really?” Yes, it embarasses me, sort of. But I have an investment here.
Mary says she watched me on the day I hit what we now refer to as “paydirt.” Joyce and Jenni and Steve and Helen and Frank were probably watching too. Mary says I looked like PigPen, that character from the Peanuts cartoon strip. She says I was actually attempting to cut dirt. There were dust clouds swirling, sticks and rocks flying through the air. Joe The Dog was whining. When I finished that day, our property looked like The Grapes Of Wrath. Oh, the humanity.
Things are calmer this year. They are still calling us the Joads, but we’re planting our way back to social acceptance. I’m trying to coax clover and grass seed out of the ground and save us from the Dust Bowl of ’17. We don’t really have a lawn yet. I don’t know what to call it. Well, it’s just dirt, is what it is. But I’ll tell you this: if you get on Google Maps, you can spot our property easily. It will pop right out at you. It’s the thing that looks like a piece of chocolate pie on a lettuce leaf. I now spend my days looking forlornly out the window at our dirt farm. There are actually some hints of green out there. The neighbors are probably doing the same thing, anxiously. Saint Mary occasionally grabs my arm and says “Steady. Steady boy. Not yet.”