When I was a kid, I was the designated (fill in the blank).
If the TV antenna needed turning to pick up Star Trek or Dragnet, I was the designated antenna turner. If the channel needed changing, I was the designated remote control.
When the ubiquitous Ashdown, Arkansas, pine trees dropped their needles, I was the designated chief raker and burner.
Before cities stuck their noses into a family’s business and personal rights, you could burn needles and leaves in town, in your own yard.
And once I reached the age where I could be trusted around machinery with sharp objects (8-years-old), I was the designated lawn care specialist.
At first, I was very excited to be able to pour gasoline, check oil, and fire up a combustion engine. But the newness of that wore off fairly quickly.
And from the tender age of eight until I left home at 18, I was chief in charge of mowing.
Many times as I pushed off our half-acre each week, I would say to myself, “When I grow up, I’m never going to make my kid mow. I’m going to hire a lawn person.”
Fast-forward, and the reality of life set in. The kids were in soccer, football, school projects, and many other things.
I was still mowing the yard.
I would say to myself, “One day when I retire, I’m never going to make myself mow the yard. I’m going to hire a lawn person.”
But then a funny thing happened. I didn’t retire, and I didn’t want to hire a lawn person.
And I began to really enjoy mowing.
Some of that likely had to do with getting a tractor.
When we moved to the country, a neighbor stopped by to see the new guy trying to mow his five acres with a small riding mower from Sears.
“Son,” he said. “Any man who lives in the country, doesn’t own a tractor and doesn’t know how to weld is in a bad way.”
I knew how to weld, but I thought about what he said about a tractor as I repeatedly got the riding mower stuck and had to pull it out with my truck.
I bought a tractor.
Something happens to a man when he gets a tractor. He feels empowered.
As I drove around brush hogging, I began to enjoy mowing. Really enjoy mowing. It went from work to becoming relaxing.
That relaxing feeling extended from the tractor to the lawn mower.
I sold the mower from Sears and upgraded to a zero-turn model. Now I really enjoy mowing.
Zero-turn mowers are what happens when engineers combine a go-cart with a Sears riding mower.
You can do donuts in your front yard, and your wife doesn’t yell at you, she thinks you’re working.
And something else happens as a man ages and mows – a sense of accomplishment occurs.
When you’re a kid, mowing is a means to an end. You think your parents are mean, and you can’t wait for it to end.
But when no one is making you do it, you can get off the tractor or mower at the end and look back to say, “Hey, I did that.”
For those of us who don’t work with our hands for a living, what we do often can seem nebulous. We get things done and we get paid, but there’s really not much that’s tangible that people can look at and think good things because of what they see.
da Vinci painted. I mow.
I think there’s a lot of similarities there. A pristinely manicured lawn or pasture offers many of the same satisfying visuals that you see in the Mona Lisa.
A freshly cut sea of grass is smiling back at you, just like Leonardo’s masterpiece.
And for an old guy, that’s all we really need. A chance to, albeit briefly, leave a mark on the world. A mark that’s on our little piece of the world.
Just let me be and I’ll be happy cutting the grass. I swore I was going to one day have somebody else do it. But now, it makes me happy.
©2022 John Moore
John’s new book, Puns for Groan People, and his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.