Jun 29, 2005

Incoming!

Who wears a white hat, a black mask, carries silver bullets in a silver gun, and rides a lawnmower? The Lawn Ranger.

I've been fiending over the fact that I haven't cut my grass in over a week. It's a weekend thing, you see, to make sure the yard is cut. It's been that way since I lived here with my folks and was old enough to ride on our new (at the time) Gravely riding mower, with it's massive 20" or so cutting deck. It's been that way ever since.

And before you panic, don't, because I'm not one of those guys who gets out there and makes sure his lawn is cut so short it looks like it's dirt that's been spray-painted green. My redneck neighbor is one of Those Guys. He cuts his postage-stamp sized yard with a borrowed professional model cutter, one of those huge Dixon Zero Turning Radius things with the huge back wheels and nothing but a deck in front. It takes him about three minutes, but when he's done it looks like someone came in the night and stole all his St. Augustine grass and replaced it with pale green Astroturf. I'm astounded that poor grass can grow at all.

See, I learned a long time ago that while that Astro-turf look in a yard is decent, because of it's frightening uniformity, a yard should also be enjoyable, should be a place where you can walk across it barefoot without fear of having your feet cut to ribbons by razor-edged half-inch long grass stubs. This is a yard, not a pit filled with punji stakes. So, years and years ago I got the message and raised the cutting deck on my mower an inch or so, and now I get nothing but compliments along the lines of:

"Wow, Irrelephant, you're yard is so soft! What do you do to make it so soft?"

and

"Your grass is so thick! Very pretty!"

and

"Hey, I can walk across your yard barefoot and not need medicated socks after!"

I like a soft veldt of yard. But it's still uniform, and is planted carefully, tended carefully, and so forth. So the question then arises: When did we get this way? What guy decided that we needed to have manicured lawns? Have you ever looked out an airplane window or at a aerial photo of a suburb and seen the cookie-cutter look of those places? Perfect little squares bordered by streets and sidewalks, occasionally the freakish blue of a swimming pool, and the uniform green of yards, stretching out endlessly. Who decided we needed perfect yards? Is it some sort of extension of Man's Need to exert control over what we see as Nature's Chaos? Do we feel the need to reach out our hand and take the pristine wildness of prairie and turn it into bunkers and sand traps and perfectly rolled Zoysa grass?

I can see it now. First Man, standing in the entrance to his cave one evening, the sun setting across the prehistoric world, his belly full of Stew*, smoking an after-dinner pipe, thinking to himself "You know, that long slope of dirt and weeds in front of the cave would look awfully nice if it was all flat and smooth. And maybe some zinnias over there by the brontosaurus, and a nice water feature. And it'd sure make my neighbor Ug over there jealous."

I'm certain that's how it all started. From there it was all a down-hill slide into watering, careful chemical and fertilizer additions, and those weed-eaters that have the big blade on the end that you have to run down the driveway and sidewalk with, cutting a huge black gouge in the earth alongside the concrete, throwing sparks and making that horrible churring sound when you get too close, and those small sweaty swarthy guys in white T-shirts that insist on running a leaf blower at full throttle underneath your window while you're trying to make youself understood on the phone to your profoundly deaf 95 year old grandmother who wants to include you in her big fat will but cannot remember how to spell your first name.

I know that's what's holding me back. I can feel it. Change is trying to come, has been sniffing around the doors and windows for years and years now, eager for a way in, but it's being held back by a mass of grass clippings that I should have composted instead of leaving it in the yard, thinking that the mulching blade was a better option, and that little brown man with his 150mph blower keeps blowing it down to the Jones' house.

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*Stew was the First Meal, you see. The first time Man stepped into the first cave with his mate and started a cooking fire, the first meal she ever served him was Stew.

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