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Lawn Boy

by Stephen Lautens


October 12, 2001

I'm one of the few people who welcomes the cold weather. For me, it means only one thing: no more mowing the lawn. Even now I can almost hear those annoying little green blades grinding to a halt.

Maybe it's because I grew up on a corner lot in the suburbs where it was my weekend job to mow the lawn. With all the bumps, stumps and other obstacles, you could start mowing Saturday morning and be finished just in time for Sunday dinner. But for an eleven year-old, it was the only way to make some money. These were the days before a pre-teen could build up and lose a billion dollar dot com empire before lunch, or put an earring in your bellybutton and tour in a boy band.

As a junior gardener for hire, I learned to hate grass in short order. The only fun I had was running over little plastic army men with the lawn mower. Unfortunately, people look at you funny when you keep doing it as an adult. Especially when accompanied by international super-villain type laughter: "Mr. Bond, meet my friends ­ Mr. Black and Mr. Decker."

Even though it numbs the brain, mowing the lawn also requires your full attention, as one of my friends discovered. He now needs a calculator to count higher than nine.

While breathing gas fumes and working with whirling blades would seem like a paradise for a young boy, it wasn't without its perils. Plastic army men notwithstanding, the average lawn contains a surprising number of hazards. Especially if you let the grass get as long as I do. Lurking down near the roots is a collection of rocks, sticks and the dreaded pet deposits from inconsiderate neighbours (the deposits are from the pets - not the neighbours). Regardless, you don't want any of them shooting out at your ankles at a hundred miles an hour.

It's probably a generational thing, but I've never been particularly lawn proud. If you don't believe me, ask my neighbours. My lawn looks like Osama bin Laden's front yard. And I spend about as much time out there looking after it as he does.

There used to be a retired man who lived down the street from me. His lawn would put any PGA golf green to shame. It was an eighth of an inch high and uniformly green. He watered it every day and used more fertilizer than they produce at a First Ministers Conference. He could literally hear a leaf falling from a tree, bolt from the house and catch it mid air before it could land on his lawn. He spent weekends on his hands and knees giving his grass a shiatsu massage.

My lawn was a bit of a disappointment to him. I think I may be one of the reasons he finally left the neighbourhood. My grass has never seen fertilizer. If I think of it I'll spray it with the garden hose when it starts to smolder on hot days and threatens to become a brush fire. I like to think of my lawn as evolution in action, where only the strongest survive. Unfortunately, the weeds are winning.

When I was in China before they won the Olympics I saw them spray painting their dead grass bright green. It didn't look anything like real grass, but I was still tempted to ask them where they got the paint.

Now all that's left to do is wait for winter to arrive, because that's when my lawn looks best - under three inches of snow.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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