The Lawnmower Chronicles

Episode 1

The lawn needed mowing for the first time this season. I could tell by the dandelions that had sprung up overnight with the first sunny 70 degree day. I like dandelions well enough, but a nagging voice in the back of my head kept telling me that the average joe driving past the corner of 4th and Woodrow was probably muttering under his breath “What a dick” as he ran the stop sign for the 14th time. Time to suck it up, I thought to myself as I left the office early to play hooky from the hordes of hungover college kids marking time until the semester ended. Good thing I got the snowblower put away just in time.

I’m not a whiz with things mechanical. If I play with something long enough eventually I can probably fix a small engine or two here or there, but since I figure I only have about 32 productive years left on this planet I let other people do that kind of tinkering. I pulled the lawnmower, now in its third year of service, out of its hibernation in the backyard shed, gassed it up with gas left over from last year, and pulled the cord. Surprisingly, the beast started up on its third pull, a success in anyone’s book. After carefully surveying the 50′x150′ plot of earth that western civilization and American ingenuity allows me to call mine, I am off on the first row.

I decided first to get the perimeter cut. It occurs to me that the ancient post-and-wiremesh fence that surrounds my yard should be replaced soon. It’s been there for 27 years, and looks like shit. I did have the back fence, a nice stockade-looking sort of design, put in a number of years ago to gain some privacy from the rental house that juts up at the south end of my back yard. You never knew who was going to live there, so it seemed best to fence it in. I waited until the year the sunbathing neighbor moved out.

This first cutting, I decided to go for a box cut at first , moving from the yard’s perimeter and cutting along all four sides until the box kept getting smaller. But that strategy bombed out this year when I discovered it might be best to keep a linear north-south route going. There are too many obstacles on the lawn to really keep to one pattern, so I am forced to mix it up. One pattern I have yet to try is a diagonal cut .Perhaps with the next cutting.

It began to look like rain might set in while I was cutting the lawn. I was glad to be getting the job done, because if it rains in the next day or so I will be glad that the lawn is mowed. Rain delays the inevitable ,and during this time of year the grass is always the thickest and hardest to cut. A delay of two or three days can be disastrous and wreck havoc on your schedule. So I was pretty happy to be out mowing.

Today’s thoughts while out on the mow consisted pretty much of keeping tabs on how tired I would get. I have serious thoughts this year about hiring the mowing job out. People have been encouraging me to do so. I am resisting at the moment, although I have to say the thought is tempting. I want to believe I can still get out there and mow my own lawn. This feels like keeping death a little further away from the door. I am struggling to reconcile myself to the fact that the remainder of my life will in large part be measured by the the things I can no longer do, so mowing the lawn is perhaps a demarcation line in some sense. As long as I can mow my own lawn, I am alive and prospering.

Halfway through the job (which is basically getting the back yard done), the lawn mower decides to stall. Great. It appears my usual luck with machines is rearing its ugly head. A few anxious pulls on the cord result in sputters and stalls. I head to the house to take a break on the belief that letting the lawnmower sit for a few minutes to cool down will help. While inside, I check up on some internet shit. A terrible waste of time that turns out to be. Returning to the lawnmower, I fill it with some gas for some unknown reason, but probably in the illogical belief that a full tank of gas is better for starting the machine than a ½ tank of gas. Three pulls, and nothing. I am about to give up when I take another pull. A huge roar, and this icon of suburbia comes to a decidedly peppy new life. I engage the transmission, and we are off to do the front lawn. This is good, because the front lawn is where the money is. People notice your front lawn, but not your back so much. And since I am a social cripple and rarely have people over to my place, there is less need to keep the back lawn cut. I should learn to do the front lawn first,

Sometime last fall I removed a part of the fence so that I could get from the back yard to the front yard along the east side of the house. Very convenient now, what with the RV taking up most of the back part of the driveway’s width. I really need to repair those ruts in the front lawn from the construction I had done two years ago. But of course, I am waiting for some college students who owe me work to come do it . No doubt I’ll be waiting until next fall. They’re probably graduating, I think.

The west panel of my front lawn is below sea level. It has sunk over the years, and sits below the concrete edge of the driveway. I know it needs to have new topsoil added to it, and perhaps re-seeded. Maybe the whole think needs to be dug up and re-done. That’s more than I can do. But it’s a bit depressing on this first cutting to begin to realize how much work your lawn needs.

Coming to the end, I don’t feel so bad. Doing it on a Monday is good, because I have almost three days to recover before the weekend of shows begins again. I think to myself that in two weeks the semester and the academic year will be done, and the students will go home. I congratulate myself on getting through another year. But soon, I realize, mowing my lawn will be the highlight of my day – a day when all there is to do is mow the lawn.

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