By Bobby Neal Winters
Charlie, our smiling, digging dog, has discovered a 30-foot gopher run in our backyard, and, thereby, combined his love of digging with his love of killing small animals. I found this out while mowing yesterday, and it comes at an awkward time, just before my last one or two mowings of the year.
This is serious business too, as I’ve given up hope of getting into heaven through either faith or works and have pinned my fate on my lawn. It is a hard path which, ironically, requires both faith and work, but as all other roads are closed for me, it’s the only one I have left.
It is all the harder because I’ve undergone a paradigm-shift in the way I view my lawn. I’ve been mowing it by myself for years, and, for years, it has remained relatively stable. There was the back and forth in front of my house allowing for a few trees to mow around. It was simple.
The back yard was less simple, but, over the course of twenty years, I’d optimized my approach to it. I’d divided it into four zones. There is the peony-grapevine zone, wherein I painstakingly mow around peonies and grapevines. There is “the narrows” on the west side. There is the clothesline/swing-set region (CLSWR) in which the clothesline and the swing-set are the defining obstacles, and there is the end-zone that encircles the brush pile. In the beginning, “the narrows” and the CLSWR were the regions most amenable to the standard back-and-forth (or up-and-down) mowing technique favored by the experts from NALM, the National Association of Lawn Mowers, but over the years with the addition of trees and dogs and dog-associated equipment, even those two areas must be approach by rather ad hoc methods.
But like a frog in a cook pot, I only perceive the small differences over time, not their accumulation. While I’ve not been boiled alive, I have reached a level of complexity that I did not appreciate until I’d been gone and turned it over to my EDF, i.e. eldest daughter’s fiancé.
While I was gone to Paraguay in July, I let my EDF do the mowing. As I did have some idea that my lawn had become idiosyncratic, I gave the lad a tour before I left, showing him various features of the yard, and giving him sage advice.
“If it looks like it hasn’t been mown before, don’t decide you’re Christopher Columbus.”
I paid high-dollar for that wisdom in terms of new lawn mowers, but I gave it to him for free.
When we arrived back from Paraguay, we were greeted not only with a freshly mown lawn, but with his learned assessment that we had “the worse lawn ever” in terms of mowability.
The front lawn, which had been easy to mow in the past, was made complicated by our acquisition of the property on our west and the planting of six fruit trees in that small space.
EDF also found the backyard to be rather more challenging than expected, as I’d neglected to tell him of my patented four-zone approach.
His reaction was an eye-opener to me. I’d been mowing along the same way for years thinking that I was lacking in some way. The truth of the matter is that I’d been engaged in “extreme” mowing without ever realizing it.
It is my plan to make a petition to the HMC, the Higher Mowing Commission, to move my lawn to a higher classification. The HMC works hand in glove with NALM to improve lawns and lawn-mowing in this country. If my petition is granted, my lawn will move from the “regular” category to a category that recognizes a higher level of difficulty induced by both flora and fauna.
The addition of the gopher-run canyons Charlie has dug for me would’ve boosted me up to an even higher level of difficulty, had they been included in my petition, but changing it now would only look like whining. HMC hates whiners.
That is about par for the mowing course, however.
(Bobby Winters is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Science, Professor of Mathematics, and Acting Chair of the Department of Chemistry.)