Mowing cuts a swath across summer

To some, summertime means sun, relaxation and vacation. To me it means playing catch-up on the outdoor work I’ve put off the rest of the year and the seasonal tyranny of lawn mowing.

When I happened to be in Kalamazoo on April 15, I witnessed a commercial lawn mowing service already out along West Main Street, buzzing grass in front of a business. “Are they nuts?!” I asked my dog, Sousa, who was seated next to me in the car. She panted in agreement.

The April 15 lawn mowing violated not only my sensibilities, but also my own rule to never fire up a lawnmower before May 1. It’s bad enough to have to give in to May-September lawn mowing lunacy, but those who start keeping up grass appearances even earlier are seriously weed and otherwise whacked.

Maybe it’s different if you have the funds to hire it done or can write it off as a business expense. But quite possibly you need to think about sprouting a life outside of your lawn.

Actually, I enjoy lawn mowing. Always have. It’s relaxing. I do my best contemplating to the hum of the engine and whir of the blades, until my reverie is interrupted by hitting some unforeseen object, surreptitiously left there by nature, the kids, or the dog. Chores parallel the rest of life.

My first paying job involved shoving a push mower around my grandparents’ nearly one-acre of lawn. Their thick, over-seeded grass took nearly four hours each time. I’d stop midway through to give the mower and myself a rest.

Once I made the mistake of testing the exhaust to see if the mower had cooled enough to resume work. My fingers blistered instantly, forcing me to finish the pushing job with my right hand in a bag of ice. I was determined to earn the coveted 10 bucks toward purchasing a new three-speed bicycle!

You can imagine my joy when Uncle Bob helped Grandma acquire a riding lawnmower, reducing my mowing time by two-thirds. I’d don a pair of sunglasses, short-shorts, and  a bikini top to get in some paid tanning.

At the first sign of my bouncing along their property line, my grandma’s neighbor would suddenly get the urge to mow his lawn. Never mind that he’d just mowed it the day before. He’d start circling counterclockwise at speeds that had us repeatedly meeting along the property line for a smile and jiggly wave.

His eventual wink telegraphed his motives, so I would purposely mow another section of yard until his wife came out and collared him with some indoor maintenance request. By the end of summer, the heavier than usual rainfall and my budding shape ensured his house was in tip-top shape. It was Grandma’s turn to wink, sizing up the situation through her living room window.

Lewis Katz was my childhood lawn-mowing hero. His manicured, ornamented Eight-Mile Road yard inspired awe. I’ve never viewed such perfection, with the exception an adulthood neighbor’s lawn.

When I lived in Kinderhook, I mowed my lawn every week or two, whenever I found the time. But Barney mowed his lawn daily! If he and his wife weren’t getting along, which was most of the time, he’d mow even more frequently as an excuse to get out of the house.

The solution seemed obvious: Since Barney was going to mow lawn anyway, and since his grass didn’t really need it, and since he deeply deplored my lawn mowing infrequency, Barney should mow my lawn.

I propositioned him with a proposal for making some extra cash. His answer surprised me. Not just no, but Hell no! Couldn’t I see he really had the retirement thing going on full-time?! He was already swamped with busyness. But never too busy, I noted, to find the time to complain to everyone about his neighbor’s half-hearted lawn care habits.

So I bucked up and continued to mow lawn my way. I cut the grass May through September without letting it to cut into my schedule. Twenty years later, the only thing that’s changed is I no longer wear short-shorts and a bikini top. I’ve outgrown them, along with mowing around public opinion.

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