By Bobby Neal Winters
After all of the anticipation and preparation, after all of the worry and anxiety, after all of the dreams and hopes and fears, it has begun. I’ve mown for the first time this season.
It was rougher than I thought it would be. The layer of detritus accreted by my lawn was thicker than usual. The contribution of balls from my gum tree was particularly thick. I was told by my neighbor Bob Laushman, who had been in turn told by his arboreal consultant, a.k.a. tree guy, that there is a two-day window in which a freeze will kill your gumballs for a year. Someone in that conversation made a remark concerning this which is not suitable for a family publication.
When we got our Easter freeze two years back, it hit that two-day window just perfect and we had a ball-less year. That was the year the frost bit back the oaks and even the walnuts. Walnuts are hard to bite-back because they are conservative and not so easily fooled. In any case, we didn’t have a big crop of gumballs that year.
Having said all that, it was not the regular layer of natural debris that slowed the process. It was the dog we called Charlie. (I only call him that when I am in a particularly good mood.)
Our travails with Charlie began right away with his escaping. Particularly loyal readers may recall my having put out pleas for advice on how to keep him in the yard. We settled finally on a radio fence/shock-collar combos. There was a short period of time when he outsmarted it, but that has now been fixed. In the meantime, however, he has taken to digging.
It wasn’t such a problem when he was just digging up Jean’s strawberries and her butterfly garden, but those have not proven to be sufficient challenges for him. He has proceeded to the rest of the yard.
Some of you might be aware that I wasn’t always such a genteel character as I am now. I didn’t always seek to better myself and make myself righteous through the manly art of mowing. While growing up, I knew some folks whose only grass was that which grew up through the frames of abandon farm equipment, the rest having been killed by the traffic of kids and dogs and billy goats.
As I was mowing my back yard, having to winch my mower occasionally from one of the pits Charlie has dug, I had flashbacks to those days. I looked into the animal’s perpetually smiling face and imagined myself doing violence to him. I remembered my trip to Siberia when an American ex-patriot there had told me of his suspicions that his Buryat neighbors had eaten his dog. I momentarily envied him.
The question, the persistent question, I am asked and ask myself is why not just get rid of the dog. The answer is that my daughter loves him. Looking at that sentence I wonder how many sons-in-law owe their continued survival to that very thing. It’s something to think about, especially by potential sons-in-law. (Not you, Andrew.)
I’ve approached the folks at NALM, the National Association of Lawn Mowers, about advice. This is a dangerous thing to do because it means they might want to examine my lawn which could result in my being suspended from competition for the year or, given the state of my lawn, indefinitely.
They were surprisingly understanding. They made a number of suggestions for reclamation including hauling in a few truck loads of dirt. (Do any of you know there the dirt goes when a dog digs a hole by the way?) When I asked them where would I get the money for this, they suggested I apply for a bailout from Washington just like everyone else.
It’s something to think about.
(Bobby Winters is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University.)