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The art of (yard) war

I’ve finally broken down and hired a yard man. It only took me a year and a half of sweat and struggle to finally accept that I’ve just got absolutely nothing on a man with a riding mower, a power blower, a nifty edger, and biceps bigger than Popeye’s.

Oh, I moved to Sarasota absolutely sure I’d never hire a yard man. “What’s the matter with these people?” I wondered, my first month here. I never saw a single neighbor outside. Me? I was going to do my own yard work, thank you very much, and save my money for the weekly blow outs at the hair salon made necessary in high-humidity Florida. How hard could it be?

I should mention I’ve got a yard the size of a football field. An oversize lot, full of pocks and pitches which I optimistically call my “lawn” but which is full of these nasty little sand burrs that attach themselves to my shoes, pant legs, ankles, and somehow turn up hours later between my sheets when I fall into bed, exhausted from my Mr. Greenpants impersonation.

I should also mention that my lawnmower is a hand-me-down from my brother. I had it tuned up and now it was in my citified hands – a woman who’d never started a mower, much less tried to mow a lawn that seemed perpetually on orange alert against foreign invaders.

That would be me, I guess – the invader. I may pay the taxes, give it water, and enjoy the view, but the yard, for all intents and purposes, is its own little country.

Venturing into my backyard is a little like going into a war zone, with my mower a weapon of grass destruction. It doesn’t just cut the grass, it mangles most of it while leaving the odd patch here and there completely unscathed. And I don’t push my mower; the damn thing pulls me along like a rag doll as it gallops across the lawn, leaving me holding on for dear life, practically airborne behind the handle.

Under a constant threat of concussion from the barrage of basketball-sized grapefruits falling to the ground, I mow with hunched shoulders and dancing feet as I try to avoid the sting of stick shrapnel that shoots out from under the mower at regular intervals. And I invariably get thwacked in the head by the long, python-like vines that swing down from the ancient oak. I’m telling you, it’s a jungle out there.

And, yes, I’ve got snakes in the grass too. My mom, a native Floridian, the kind that can tell a rattler from a rat snake, tried to soothe me when I called her hyperventilating that there was a copperhead in my backyard. “Nah, honey, don’t worry,” she said nonchalantly, “that must have been a rat snake.” Oh, yes, thanks, Mummy, that makes me feel all better.

The final chapter to my mowing days began early one morning when I decided to get a jump on the day before the humidity piled on. Still rubbing sleep from my eyes, I lazily dragged the mower out, punched the little primer button 3 or 4 times and yanked back on the cord.

As the engine sputtered to life, three or four lizards shot out in one acrobatic tour de force, giving new meaning to the term “leapin’ lizards.” Those buggers catapulted themselves from the vibrating mower to the wall of the house, pausing just long enough to dart a wild-eyed glance back at the offending monster (not sure if that would be me or the mower) before scooting off to wherever it is lizards go when they’re not sunning themselves on your stucco walls or giving you a heart attack when you innocently, and somewhat sleepily, want to mow your lawn.

A couple of weeks after that incident, the mower bit the dust. An act of lizardian terrorism, no doubt, and defeated, I relegated the mower to a corner where it has since become the permanently acquired territory of those enigmatic, Wallenda-like creatures.

Like any good mercenary, my boffo yard man has accomplished his mission. Unfazed by the jungle-esque aspects of my yard, he has managed to tame some of the wilder patches of my little paradise, and keeps the lawn looking great with a minimum of drama.

As for me, the resulting high from seeing everything so neat and tidy lasts longer than any of my blow outs and costs less too. I may have frizzier hair these days, but my lawn’s sure as heck got it going on.

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Posted on May 1st, 2006Comments RSS Feed
One Response to The art of (yard) war
  1. I’m impressed with some of your columns. They’re pretty interesting and entertaining. Congratulations on the Herald Tribune. That’s great. So how’s the prince charming hunt going?

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