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Grass Stains

By Tim Hayes

There’s a great quote that I can’t seem to find on Google.  I don’t remember where I saw it first, many years ago, but for some reason it has stuck in my head all this time.  It sounds like something Mark Twain might have said, so I’m going to go with that until proven wrong.  It goes like this:

“Man is the only animal foolish enough to plant a crop that he has to mow every two weeks.”

Cutting the grass.  The bane of every guy’s existence.  Or, at least, this guy.  On the other hand, I have friends who enjoy this task.  There’s one fellow who loves to climb on his riding mower and cut his many acres of lawn, communing with the Almighty, reasoning out problems and issues, enjoying the bounty of nature, and returning the tractor to his shed feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

This is unfathomable to me.  I have suggested to this person that he may want to seek professional help for this affliction, but no dice.  Not yet, anyway.  They say the first step to healing is admitting that you have a problem, so there’s still hope, I guess.

As longtime readers of this blog may know, I grew up on a street where the back yards were fairly small, the grass on the side of the houses even smaller, and the strip of lawn in front the smallest of all.  In truth, it did not take much effort or time to cut the grass.  But boy, did it feel like it.

For the longest time, we had a push mower.  For you kids out there, that meant a mower powered by the person pushing it around the yard.  No motor, no gas tank, no extension cord, just you grunting your way around the estate, cursing the Sears, Roebuck Company every step of the way.  Same thing with the trimmers.  No motorized weedwackers, using spinning fishing line to power your way around the edges of the grass.  Uh-uh.  It was you, on your hands and knees, squeezing these giant scissor-like trimmers, one six-inch cut at a time, like scrubbing a basketball court with a toothbrush.

As the oldest kid in my family and the only male sibling, the responsibility of lawn care fell to me somewhere around the age of 12, I guess.  Not long afterward, once I hit high school, I also inherited grass-cutting duties at my grandmother’s house, about four blocks from ours, and for an elderly neighbor about six houses up the street.  These additional duties came with perks, though.  Grandma had a power mower in her garage, as did the old lady on our block – plus, these were paying jobs.

College and the first few years of marriage as renters meant no lawn-related duties.  Pure bliss.  That all ended, of course, with the purchase of our first home, another place like the one where I grew up, with small patches of grass to care for.  After a couple of years, when we moved back to our hometown of Pittsburgh and bought a house, however, the “fun” began again in earnest.

A larger yard.  Three little kids.  Trimming around swing sets, sand boxes, picnic tables, basketball hoops, and tomato gardens.  Truth be told, I didn’t mind the job then as much as before, since it was my yard, my family, my responsibility.

But you knew that couldn’t last, right?  That hard-won epiphany of equilibrium, that grudging acceptance of proper lawn care as part of accountable fatherhood, that slow embracing of the necessity – nay, the honor – of directing machine blade against grass blade?  It all came to a screeching, shrieking halt one summer Saturday afternoon when I ran the mower directly over an underground bee’s nest, ripping it wide open and sending scores of really, really, severely agitated bees into the air and after me, their unintentional tormentor.

After getting about 10 stings all over my arms, legs, and ankles, I swore, a la Scarlett O’Hara, that as God was my witness, someday I’d never cut the damn grass again!

Fifteen years ago, we moved into the house we still call home today.  The first week here, I saw a couple of guys cutting the neighbors’ grass on our cul de sac.  I walked over to the truck, introduced myself to the owner, negotiated a price, came back inside, and poured myself a deliciously cold and soul-comforting glass of iced tea.

And haven’t cut a blade of grass since.  Ahhhh.

Copyright 2017 Timothy P. Hayes