This past summer I spent three months in Georgia after my mother had knee-replacement surgery. She traded a 1934 model knee for a 2017 high-flex titanium implant. I tried to be funny and asked the doctor if she shouldn’t get a used one — like a 2014 model — since I had heard that the new ones lose half their value the minute you get off the operating table. He sent me to the waiting room.
At any rate — although rehab for that sort of thing is not fun — Mom is a trooper and worked hard all summer to regain her mobility. I was the head nurse during the recovery and came back to Searcy in August. It’s not often that a person gets promoted from nurse to doctor just by driving across the Arkansas state line. But I’m not the kind of doctor that can help you with your knee — only your spelling.
I came back to my Searcy home to chaos in my backyard. While I was out of town, a friend graciously kept the grass in my front yard cut. I live in a high-pressure neighborhood, lawn-wise, and it’s important to keep up appearances. In fact, whenever you hear a lawn-mower start up on my street, everyone panics and runs out to inspect the yard, fearful that a single blade of grass might have sprung up past the maximum 4.2 inches allowed by the Homeowner’s Association.
Not so in the backyard. I have a six-foot fence around that part of my property, so I told my friend he did not need to cut back there. I now realize the folly of this approach. When I got home after three months and looked out the window, I saw what Dr. Livingstone must have seen when he first viewed the forests of the Zambezi River. The grass was out of control, animals of all species were running wild, and some of the weeds had grown taller than I am. A few of them had even developed primitive tools and were carving graffiti on the fence.
I had to get out there and tame the beast.
“Well,” you suggest, “if no one can see over the fence, why not just close your windows and forget about it?” That is easy for you to say. You don’t know what it’s like to live this way: knowing that Rudyard Kipling could set a novel in your back yard, knowing that the crabgrass and dandelions have divided your lawn into rival gang territory, knowing that rare poisonous frogs are mating underneath your porch. No, something had to be done.
We are only talking about half an acre, but it took four days and over 20 bags of debris to regain control. It was exhausting, and a real strain on my brand-new Masport 800 ST mower. At one point, when plowing through some especially dense underbrush, the mower actually told me I would be hearing from his lawyer. Afterward, I had to take the wheezing and sputtering machine to a repairman, who recommended new spark plugs and a couple of weeks in Aruba. For what it’s worth, I also wore out two sets of gloves and a pair of workpants. In retrospect, it would have been easier to rent a goat.
Just for fun, I searched “rent a goat” on the internet and found a version of Airbnb just for farm animals. It seems that hipster goats will pay good money to get out of town and chew grass in a stranger’s yard. I read the profile of one couple — Bill and Myrtle from Minnesota — who are eager to get away. They just bought a tiny house and, of course, regretted it immediately.
“I thought there’d be more storage space,” Myrtle confessed, sheepishly.
Anyway, Bill and Myrtle have discovered that having one-eighteenth of an acre just isn’t enough for the kids, so their profile says they are looking for any place bigger to graze for the weekends. And their favorite breakfast food is crabgrass.
So next summer, it looks like I will have a new strategy for taming the beast. Which is a good thing, since I just got a subpoena from my lawnmower’s attorney.