The Lawn Moore

America really is The Land of Opportunity. Even if there’s only one opportunity, and that opportunity is cutting the grass.

Ashdown, Arkansas, was a pretty typical small American town in the 1960s and 1970s.

Kids weren’t just handed things. If we wanted something, we were told to work for it.

At my house that was the case. It was also the case at the homes of all of my friends.

Want a new stereo? Go make some money. Want a new bicycle? Get a job lined up. Want to go to Six Flags Over Texas? Find a revenue stream.

For me, mowing yards was a no-brainer.

My grandfather was a blacksmith, but he also repaired lawnmowers. So, there was always a Sears and Roebuck push mower with a Briggs and Stratton engine available.

He showed me how I could hang and secure a one-gallon gas can to the handles of the mower and tie a rope from the mower to the seat of my bike.

When word got out that there was a young man who had mower-will-travel, the business came rolling in.

I’d come home from school and either find a note or be told that Mrs. So-and-So, or Mr. Whats-His-Name wanted their grass cut and I needed to head that way.

Directions went something like this:

“Her house is the wooden one on the right side behind Puckett’s Store. There’s a wash pot with flowers in it hanging in the front yard.”

But lawns weren’t the only way to generate money. Business owners were always willing to hire a kid, provided he showed up for work on time and didn’t slack on the job.

At 11 years of age, I was also working for a man named Mr. Bill. That’s what I called him. I never knew his last name. A lady my mom worked with knew him and he had mentioned he needed someone to work in his bait shop.

Which, when you’re a young fella, getting paid to mess with worms and minnows is like a license to steal.

So, a few days a week after school and during the summer, I rode my bike to the bait shop downtown. I’d spend some time turning the worm beds, grinding cornmeal to feed them, and wetting down the soil with a misting hose.

Afterwards, I’d count out 20 worms, pack them into a box, and place them in the display cooler up front.

Mr. Bill also sold minnows. These were less desirable to deal with, but still cool. And like the worms, I got paid for handling them.

It was the perfect job. Hindsight, probably the best I ever had. I loved what I did and I got paid cash at the end of the day.

After a few hours of work, Mr. Bill would call me up to where he was and tell me that that was enough for the day and that he appreciated my work. He’d then hand me a dollar and tell me he’d call me when he was ready for me to come back.

This job continued until little league baseball began commanding large amounts of my time.

Just about every guy my age played little league baseball. It was our way of laying the groundwork for our future professional baseball careers.

Someone was going to have to take Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron’s place. Why not us?

But baseball gloves and baseballs didn’t grow on trees, so mowing yards was still in place for making money.

Cutting lawns became such a part of who I am that I continued to do yard work for people into adulthood. Even today.

During mowing season, I go over to cut the grass of a widow from our church. That’s in addition to the 10 acres on which my family lives.

There’s something therapeutic about mowing. This includes brush hogging on the tractor, which allows you to cut six-foot-wide swaths while riding atop a 35-horsepower diesel engine.

Mowing is that one activity that allows you look back at the end of the job and see your results. It gives you a sense of purpose. And, if you choose, it allows you to help others.

Also, mowing is always a work option. If you can’t find a job anywhere else, you can always get an old Sears and Roebuck push mower, place a gallon gas can over the mower handles, and tie a rope from your bike seat to the mower.

You can dig yourself out of the worst financial situation with a lawn mower and some ambition.

Even an 11-year-old Arkansas boy knows that.


©2024 John Moore

John’s books, Puns for Groan People and Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website, where you can also send him a message.

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