Let the lawn wars begin

Yale Hollander is a dad, husband, legal professional and writer whose works have appeared in a number of local and national publications. He is currently a trustee of the St. Louis Jewish Light, however the opinions and viewpoints he presents in this blog are strictly his. Follow him on Twitter @yalehollander.

By Yale Hollander

Spring has sprung?

Yes, that’s a question mark. 

I am not yet ready to commit to a full declaration of the turning of the season even though the calendar declared it a couple of weeks ago and there are now Major League Baseball games being played that actually count.  

One never knows when winter will sneak in one last frigid parting shot, and I don’t want to be the one held responsible for it because I got a little sanguine about what I thought was the return of spring.

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Superstitious punctuation notwithstanding, that other great American pastime associated with spring is absolutely in full bloom at my house. It’s officially lawn mowing season!

Yes, that’s an exclamation point.  

I like to mow the lawn, probably because I don’t have a huge expanse of territory to cover and it’s relatively flat terrain. And, no, I don’t have a riding mower. (Okay, my push mower does have power assist, but I rarely use it. Honest.) 

The full complement of lawn work – mowing, bagging, edging and blowing the stray clippings – takes me about an hour and a half. During that time, I’ll plug into my iPod and enjoy some cuts from the Rolling Stones’ “Some Girls” album and maybe some Atlanta Rhythm Section. This little musical ritual once inspired me to remark that I have the best looking lawn of 1978G.

Why the late 70s soundtrack, you may ask? I suppose it has something to do with my nostalgia for the golden age of lawn care – at least as far as my personal history is concerned. Near the end of that decade, I was a pre-teen, perfectly capable of handling some if not all of the domestic groundskeeping at my parents’ house. But that would not happen.

You see, my dad enjoyed lawn work too, as did Howard, our next door neighbor. The two of them had a very friendly yet ferocious rivalry with regard to the appearance of their lawns. There was no room for a child’s amateurish efforts in this competition, and to be quite honest, I wasn’t exactly frothing at the mouth for the opportunity to get in on the action. The appreciation for spending quality time with a Briggs and Stratton propelled weapon of grass destruction comes with advanced age in my family – I guess.

Every fair weather Sunday, the two of them would square off — Dad in his gimme T-shirt from some racquetball tournament and gym shorts, Howard, nearly two decades Dad’s senior, in his plaid Bermuda shorts and terrycloth polo shirt with his trusty pack of L&M cigarettes tucked into the pocket. The two would go mano y mano, or make that Toro y Toro, for hours. After the mowing came the edging, and neither of these guys resorted to a string trimmer. They both used a manual edger, an implement more akin to a medieval torture device that a lawn accessory. And then came the cleanup via push broom, as these were the days before leaf blowers shattered the serenity of a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

Once the combat was done the two soldiers would step back to admire their work – and it was always admirable work. Post-mowing pleasantries exchanged, Dad would usually head back inside the house and Howard would retreat to his backyard where he would attend to whatever pork product he happened to be smoking in his pit at the moment, and a frosty can of Budweiser.

There is no such competition in my neighborhood. Much of that has to do with the fact that the guy down the street is a professional landscaper, so any battles would strictly be for second place. That doesn’t mean I’m any less passionate about the weekly manicures I administer to my small patch of suburbia. And, from a purely selfish standpoint, it affords me 90 minutes of solitude – a treasured slice of (relative) tranquility. When you live with two girls between the ages of 10 and 13, even the roar of a small combustion engine that penetrates the peals of Keith Richards’ guitar is an aural oasis amidst tumult.

And when the job is through, I’ll grab an ice cold can of my weekly reward – 12 ounces of Vess Whistle Orange soda – and try to make it to the shower without being verbally assaulted about the aroma of gasoline, grass clippings and good old American sweat wafting through our humble homestead. 

We are already two sessions in to this lawn mowing season and, so far, only one of those has been followed by a glaze of snow upon my crisply cut lawn. That’s a .500 batting average, which, if my knowledge of baseball serves me well, is an impressive mark, even for April.