July 30, 2011

Another nasty chore dispatched

Bob Grady

---- — I retired earlier this year. I had to. I ran out of business cards. My neighbors saw it as a chance for me to finally grow a lawn they wouldn't be ashamed of.

I have to admit my lawn hasn't been a putting green. It is more like a sand trap. It's not that it's just dirt sitting there. Something is growing. I can't identify it. It looks a little like broccoli. I'd cook it, but I'm afraid of catching something.

The lawn was never my specialty. Every spring, it was treated to the most sumptuous topsoil and the most scrumptious grass seed. By day, it was cooled by gentle showers fresh from the garden hose; by night, it was bathed in dew.

Yet the lawn lacked zest from the beginning.

In its first appearance out of the ground as infant seedlings, my lawn showed great promise. They were the cutest little blades on the block.

But as its devoted parent looked on helplessly, it soon turned coarse and yellow. Taught to take its water and grow strong, it instead turned crunchy. Rather than cultivate a hue of lush green, it became a surly blond.

It gave in too easily to temptations that grass with stouter character eschew. It hung out with dandelions, and pretty soon, instead of standing up straight, it was hunched over in a defiant slouch.

The snowplow annually saddled me with an entire patch that grass inexplicably disdains, and I foolishly would plant seed, cover it with topsoil and waste gallons of water trying to coax it to turn magically into a green throw rug to go with the rest of the yard.

I'd even surround it with a little string fence as a signal to anyone who had urgent business in my front yard that would he kindly choose a route that didn't involve that patch?

Inevitably, by August, the grass would decide it hated my yard and commit suicide. And — get this — I'd lament the loss.

We have a small camp on Lake Champlain that for three generations was cool and shady, thanks to 44 hulking Norway pine trees on the property that deposited a soft, thick carpet of pine needles throughout. Then the Ice Storm of 1998 invaded, and the Norways surrendered — all 44 of them.

While we were sitting around wondering what to do next, what do you think took their place?


Nobody planted anything. It just showed up. Left on its own, it would grow so high the mailman wouldn't recognize the place.

Which gives me a big laugh when I see these ads on TV for grass seed promising thick, lush lawns. I picture a pair of scientists in lab coats somewhere saying to one another: "Congratulations, Doctor, we've invented seed that will produce fat, quick-growing blades of grass that will require mowing four times a week instead of just once."

Are they out of their minds? Have they been drinking their lawn fertilizer? If they were the hot shots they think they are, they'd come up with a concoction that would stunt the growth. If they were really geniuses, they'd enable me to keep a modestly attractive yard and retire my lawn mower altogether.

Anyway, here I am at home trying to grow grass, and at camp I'm trying to discourage it. Which one do you suppose is surrounded by lawn with the pituitary glands out of control?

I was out of town for a week, and I came home to find my front yard of dirt mottled with a few patches of crunchy grass. Even the broccoli had turned brown. I asked my wife if she had hosted a rodeo while I was gone.

Now my lawnmower sits idly in the garage; the hose is wound in an oval hanging from a hook; the grass seed will be used for traction in the icy driveway this winter.

I love it.

Bob Grady worked at the Press-Republican for about 40 years, as a reporter and then editor. For 20 of those years, he wrote a weekly humor column. He retired in February 2011.