“You know, Doug, the grass is gonna need mowing before the weekend company comes.”
Alas, I am only too aware of my familial responsibilities having been conditioned from an early age to mow frequently and cut often. Can you blame me if I have a love-hate relationship with the lawn?
I’m like anyone else who appreciates a well-manicured front yard with a rich green color that’s been nurtured and fussed over. There’s nothing like sitting on front porch steps with a beer and the scent of new mown grass in the air, surveying the results of a couple hours of hard labor. It’s not an English meadow, but it will do.
As a kid, and the oldest of three, it was my job to keep the family estate on Thomas Avenue in St. Paul in good shape. At least it seemed as large as a British manor to a 9-year-old, although the yard was postage stamp size. The lawnmower we had was a Montgomery Ward reel push type that needed a hard shove to make it go anywhere. This evolved over time to a shiny new Briggs & Stratton rotary cut model that seemed effortless to operate. But then there was the lake place.
Every Saturday the family loaded up into the Nash Rambler and we’d drive two hours to Diamond Lake near Atwater, Minnesota. Before anything fun could happen, the lawn had to be cut. That left about 24 hours to enjoy “The Lake” before we all piled into the car for the two hour drive back to the Cities with all the other weekenders.
I escaped this family lawn chore by going off to St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota, and joining the Christian Brothers. Guess what my job was in our house of 65 young men training for the religious life. You got it. I mowed the lawn. But this time I fell in love with the job. I got to drive the Massey Ferguson tractor with power-take-off that spun twin rotary blades on a tow-behind mower. An added bonus was I didn’t have to wash and wax the floors of the refectory (dining room) and could skip out of dusting anything.
The “yard” was big, including a large field in front of the building where we lived, an area below a hill that bordered on a man-made lake, and soccer fields at the Novitiate, a dormitory, chapel and refectory, where first year candidates for “The Life” lived. The grass cutting was great. I enjoyed the noise, driving a big machine and being able to admire the work when finished — no front steps or beer, however.
The love-hate relationship with mowing a yard has continued all my life with all the places we’ve lived. Too many to count the mowers bought and destroyed by tree stumps, rocks, oil leaks and fires — I mean, this IS dangerous work after all, spending countless hours working toward the perfect cut.
You’d think with all this, that moving to a new town would come with a fresh relationship with the job of yard maintenance, a chance to downsize or leave it to someone else. No, we have about an acre to cut — go figure. I lobbied for a zero-turn mower, every homeowner’s dream, but a dose of common sense and a cash shortage left us with a smaller riding mower. I reckon by the time I wear out this one and slide a little more toward decrepitude, maybe I can make a pitch for a Dixie Chopper or most likely, a good view of someone else riding by as I look out the window of “The Home.”
Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at email@example.com.