There comes a time in sprinter when the mornings are still crisp enough for an old flannel shirt when we all must wake the mechanical bee hibernating in our sheds. Some of our wives have made a feeble attempt at this job with the new electric varieties but, all in all, weed-eating is still man’s work, especially in the south. Unless you have a yard man, this job does not discriminate. We must all do battle with dandelion and wild onions soon after the Bradfords are painted white. There are two scientific certainties. A yard will not look mowed with a big Dandelion growing next to the house. No lawn mower, no matter the turn radius or cost, will remove that Dandelion. I incidentally, have wondered on many occasions who pays whom to maintain this status quo. I cannot bear to believe this area of horticultural purgatory is simply the failure of imagination and engineering.
Have you heard of those cities which write you a ticket for unmowed grass?
With my flannel shirt on, I walk down to the little house. This structure should not be confused with the main house for you southern planters or the big house for all you ex-cons out there. The term little house was passed to me as casually as the suffix on my name. Just like the other things indiscriminately passed my way, both natural and learned, they are now parts of my soul. My daughter AND wife are now carriers. Maybe that is what the term soul mate really means.
The little house, home for lawn implements which were way to expensive, might tell you more about me than you wanted to know. I, I mean it, has tried to hang on, change and evolve and has the scars to prove it. The gutters are dirty little secrets covered in ivy and deep red wild roses. They allow the spring rains to play havoc with the foundation but, pulling the beautiful roses and green ivy away to repair them is just too painful. Thorns grown long ago lie in wait to bring blood. There are snakes in the ivy which are so dangerous they must be left alone. There is new corrugated aluminum where the door was replaced for yet another bigger, badder lawnmower. This aluminum stands out like a sore thumb against its dignified and peeling antique green painted cousins. The new door boasts it will not take paint to the world. With a suspect foundation, stubborn door and old gutters which do not work anymore the little house seems to still weather the occasional tree limb or spring wind pretty well.
…And who among us doesn’t have a little house of some kind?
The little house has a combination lock my father-in-law gave me. Women think they have the corner on the “something borrowed” market but, are sadly mistaken. The lock still has my in-laws’ anniversary as a combination. Since they have been married for over a half-century, the combination reminds me longevity and loyalty have not been thrown on the trash heap of history. The lock constantly needs oiling and cleaning so you can see and work the numbers. It is work that never seems convenient. In the rush for the well-manicured lawn, taking time to care for this relic from the Master Lock Company seems to get in the way of life at times. Somehow however, I cannot imagine lawn care without it. A lock like this, my friend for years, seems to always demand attention when time is shortest. I have found a little work along, is just easier. I have come to find joy in the work over the years.
Doesn’t our to-do list say as much about us as our accomplishments?
The contents of the little house are a study in capitalistic excess. There is a new John Deere which dubiously justifies itself. The Craftsman worked fine. A necessary lawn spreader which has worn the nail on which it hangs waits patiently for its charge. Pieces of wood with all manner of good intentions form the attic. Their projects sit quietly waiting for a rainy day which may never come. Then, there is the Husqvarna weed eater. It also replaced a Craftsman which is still in service at my father-in-law’s hunting camp. A necessity required for the proper grooming of a respectable lawn, the Husky could mow down all the rice patties in Korea in a single bound. These implements come with illustrations captioned with a Rosetta Stone of languages which are never read until the thing stops working. These implements almost all operate on my Waterloo of personal questions, “how hard could it be.” Knowing everything about the world is a lonely job but, someone has to do it. In desperation only, I seek guidance and strength from the maker from the Rosetta Stone.
Does your testosterone prevent you from reading instructions too?
The Rosetta Stone was never consulted when I developed the art of winding the weed eater string. I went about the task on my own. I am not sure why. Consulting the engineers at Husqvarna through their instructions would have been so much easier. Even a call to their hotline is in order when the directions are not so clear. Instead, I have developed a procedure which gets the job done. The string comes out of the roll kinked and screaming for attention. This unorganized mess must be attended. The way I handle this is to circle on of the black metal posts which the previous owner of my home left me. I call the previous owner, Mr. Sparkman’s Ghost. Mr. Sparkman fancied grapes because they would give him an excuse to ferment their juice. The grape-vine post makes a great place to loop unruly weed eater string. Once straightened, the string can be wound quite easily. All of the mistakes of winding however must be reproduced until the appropriate emotion in sufficient quantity is produced. With a fresh spool of string, I am ready to attack the Dandelion.
You are always invited to sit on the rabbit bench while I wind the string.
A freshly mowed yard is its own reward. There are smells of freshly cut grass mixed perfectly with aromatic hydrocarbons. With entropy beaten back in the form of a smooth uniform cut, order is brought to the little slice of earth we own. There was a time when I, in my sweat soaked shirt, plop on a lawn chair with fermented yeast, malt and hops to enjoy my control of the universe. All those things, I have found today to be fleeting and temporary. Control is an illusion. The joy of labor is eternal.