Let’s get the truth out in the yard, I enjoy doing yard work.
For some reason, I always have.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have my moments when I become unglued, and words spew out of me that could wither a flower. But overall, I enjoy yard work.
There is one exception. In the fall, leaves drive me nuts.
Growing up in North Carolina, as soon as I could safely operate a gasoline powered lawnmower, I was pushing one.
From early spring until late fall, I mowed our yard every week.
At one point, I mowed four yards in the neighborhood. No trimming, just mowing. The homeowners provided the mowers and the gas. I’m sure I wasted every penny I earned.
I do not ever remember my father buying grass seed or fertilizer for our yard. That yard was a combination of weeds, primarily wild Bermuda, also known as wire grass. My father despised that “durn wire grass,” especially when it encroached on his garden.
I could not tell you the moment when the pursuit of lawn perfection bit me. But, I succumbed.
In my memory, I can remember a couple of years when we contracted with a lawn service in Richmond to do aerating, seeding, and fertilizing. Then, I figured our the timing and the materials needed, and I started doing all that perfection work on my own.
Some springs and into early summer our yard looks like a well groomed fairway on a golf course. And naturally, there have been times when whatever magic preparation I tried didn’t work.
And before we go further, I must confess. When the summer becomes hot and dry, and rain is absent, I do not water our lawn. I water all of our shrubs and flowers. I figure when the rain does arrive, the grass will come back.
Labor Day weekend, I raked our back and front yards to remove thatch and other debris. Then I lowered the mowing height of the lawn mower, and cut the grass lower than I usually do.
Next, I went to Lowes. I carefully studied the labeling for the grass seed and starter fertilizer like I knew what I was doing.
Then I wrestled with getting two twenty pound bags of grass seed and a fifty pound bag of fertilizer. That fertilizer bag only reinforced that despite doing push ups and working with ten pound dumbbells, I have no upper body strength. I suspect I would lose an arm wrestling contest to any of our grandchildren.
Probably on the ride home from Lowes is when the irrational part of my brain took over—“You know William, it has been years since you rented an aerator. If you really want lawn perfection next spring, you need to rent an aerator this week.”
So on the afternoon of Tuesday, September 6, at 3:30, I was at our neighborhood hardware store. I committed to renting the beast for two hours. I also rented two ramps so that I could get the beast in and out of the borrowed pickup truck.
After giving me some pointers, two employees helped me load the monster into the back of the truck. They struggled.
So, I climbed into the bed of the truck to help pull the heavy machine up the last few inches. Then, I took some rope and tied down my new friend just to make sure that its restless hollow spikes didn’t start any problems on the ride home.
We arrived safely.
I let down the tailgate. I carefully positioned the ramps to line up with the wheels of the beast. I grabbed the handles bracing to be run over. The aerator ignored me. It raced down the ramp, and landed with a jarring thud.
Miraculously, the beast started on the first pull. With my gloved hands, I grasped the thin handle, and the beast took off dragging me behind it. I vaguely remembered one of the hardware store employees pointing out the throttle switch.
I let go of the handle, the beast stopped. I found the throttle switch and slowed down the engine. Even though the pace was better, no matter if I was in the backyard or front yard, the beast worked me over. I knew my old sack of bones would be hurting on Wednesday.
Before I knew it, I was approaching the two hour limit. I pushed the beast toward the back of the pickup truck. Next, I used a garden hose to wash soil and strands of grass off the underside and the spikes.
I repositioned the ramps, and somehow the Commander Supreme and I pushed and pulled the beast back into the truck bed. With the beast retied, I drove back to the hardware store.
When I arrived, two employees came out help get the beast down from the truck. I told them this was probably my last dance with an aerator. They laughed. I presume they have heard that declaration before.
Back at home, I pulled my broadcast spreader out of the tool shed. I adjusted the spreader’s rate of flow. I filled the spreader and started to work.
Sure enough on Wednesday, the beast was still with me.
My lower back was talking to me. My back must have been thinking, “ Don’t you ever, ever rent an aerator again. You think this pain is annoying, you don’t want to know how much pain you will be in if you rent a beast again.” By Friday, my back and I were on tenuous terms.
My dance with the beast made me think of Curley Fletcher.
A long, long time ago, Curley Fletcher was a cowboy out in northern California. Fletcher was also a cowboy poet and songwriter. “Strawberry Roan” is his most famous poem that has been set to music and recorded by a variety of musicians.
“Strawberry Roan” is a horse. A horse that no matter how skilled a cowboy claimed to be, no one could tame the cantankerous “Strawberry Roan.”
On Tuesday afternoon, I sort of felt like I was trying to tame a bronco—that aerator. In about ten days, I’ll learn if my work with the beast paid off. If grass seed start sprouting, then I might have kinder thoughts toward the beast.
My encounter with the beast made me think about life.
For some people, life is a tough ride everyday.
They are worn and battered by trying to live life.
The things that life tosses at me are nothing in comparison to their experiences.
Some are homeless.
Some fight addiction.
Some are unemployed.
Some have poor health.
Some are hungry.
Some are estranged from family.
Some have no faith, no hope.
And I’m whining about an aerator wearing me out.
What is wrong with my thinking?