Mack WIlliams: Mowing and its memories
I recently saw a man labouring over his “lapsed” lawn with a push mower, not the kind which my late Aunt Ruth used up in North Wilkesboro.
Her mower was that human-powered kind sometimes posted on Facebook with the caption: “Anybody ever use one of these? (essentially, an over-sized “vegematic!”).
At the traffic light adjacent this “weed thresher’s” house, I observed a while; for at certain stoplights in Danville, Virginia, one wonders if the stop light’s changing will be preceded by predicted astronomical events, or by religious events, prophesied.
The yard was a waist-high, living grass and weed herbarium of the region. Having reached “fruition,” it probably had its sights set on invading the well-kempt “Lebensraum” next door, by means of breeze-driven seed, weightier seed being sent on pieces of silk, “82nd Airborne style.”
The weeds were so high, the poor man was attacking from above, like the English long bowmen of Agincourt. I’ve been there (not Agincourt) myself, arching the push mower blade upward, sometimes even picking the mower up and lowering it onto the “fruited yard” ever so slowly so the blades don’t get strangled to a stop. And if they do become “throttled” (choked), struggling to free them with a knife from knotted, “Sargasso-style” entanglement amidst the smell of chlorophyll’s green “blood.”
Hundreds of plantain plants had flowered out; and kids who excel in mock combat with its stalked buds would have found a wealth of “ammunition” there. Some of you remember looping the plantain’s stem into a “mechanism” for its bud’s propulsion (those of you too young to know this, probably think it proper that my generation is not exceedingly long for this world).
In that “weed cornucopia,” I even thought I spied something resembling the wild grass from which the Native Americans developed corn: teosinte! Other “grassy fruit” resembled “mini wheat”(small wheat plants, not something frosted with sugar). Much time had passed in that yard since “First the blade, and then ….”(Mark 4:28).
It was a “yard gone wild” (sort of a “botanical sex” version of “Coeds Gone Wild” (the old VHS tapes hawked on TV).
Being a renter, I no longer have yard worries. The other morning, the riding-mower man, the grass-blower man, and the bush- trimmer man came and went in only 30 minutes; and I envied not their “still being in the arena.” No more turning the riding-mower ignition, and concerning push-mower trimming, no longer do I have to “Pull the string” ( different from Bela Lugosi’s meaning in “Ed Wood”(1994)).
I’ll have to admit that I did really enjoyed the riding mower. Even on a hot day, there was that minimum of “riding-mower breeze,” with the simple motion of things passing by. I liked geometry at East Rowan, and majored in psychology at Appalachian, so there was simple joy in starting at yard’s edge, going round and round, ever inward toward the center like that rotating wheel with inner stripe meant to induce hypnotic trance.
And speaking of “trance,” (well, slight trance) it was always nice to have beer-in-hand while mower-riding, but I never ventured into the highway. Not wanting to appear crude to the neighbors, I always poured my beer into an empty 16-ounce Mountain Dew bottle (we all have our little idiosyncracies).
I avoided mowing clusters of violets; and I skirted around clumps of mushrooms, figuring they were just “doing their best to be flowers too.” I left a foot-tall horsetail rush (Equisetum) growing in a damp ditch, purely for the sentimental reason that it reminded me of its 90-foot-tall ancestors growing in the swamps of 100 million years ago.
When it comes down to it, nature (what there is of it in a yard) rolling by more intimately (and slower) than nature seen from a car is what I miss most about my yard-cutting days.
Plus riding along with my “Mountain Dew”-camouflaged beer!