Monday, July 23, 2007

Welcome to the Jungle

(Post inspired by Hammer, talking about having to mow his yard after his vacation.)

When Lovely Wife, the girls, and I moved into a rental house in Powder Springs, Ga in 1989, it sat on almost half an acre. I've never been afraid of cutting grass, that's how I made spending money while growing up. I've definitely mowed several lifetimes worth of grass, and except for extreme heat, kind of enjoyed it.

I had grown up in Louisiana, where the heat and humidity was way beyond anything I've experienced while living in the Florida panhandle, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas area, Central Florida, and yes, even way more than in the Atlanta area.

One thing that I like immediately about the Atlanta area was that not all of the houses were brick. On any given street, there were ranch style homes, maybe brick, maybe wood stained or painted a pleasing color, while other homes on the same street may be tri-level, two story, and so on. The result was a lot of differences and to me this was quite pleasing to drive around and look at.

Another immediate thing that this boy liked were the hills. Wow. Hills. Louisiana's highest point is Driskill "Mountain" at a whopping 535ft above sea level. But the Atlanta area had lots and lots of hills and hilly neighborhoods. I simply loved this.

Anyway, back to our rental house. It sat on about half an acre. The back yard was heavily wooded, but at one time you could tell that it had been cleaned out, but past renters of the home hadn't bothered in quite a while, so there were all manner of small trees trying to grow in addition to patches of thigh deep grass.

And in the area between our house and the neighbor on one side was a big open area where the city of Powder Springs had once planned to put a connecting street. Our neighbor owned his home, so he mowed only to the edge of his property, meaning the big area there was mostly part of the property we were renting. Again past renters hadn't bothered to mow this in so long that the grass was waist to chest high on me, and very thick. It was out in the open and was a low area so when it rained it got plenty of water and then later plenty of sun.

In the beginning, I just mowed what had been mowed in the past, and kept eyeing the mess in both our back yard and side yard.

What worried me, was having come from Louisiana where there were lots of snakes, I thought that if I were a snake, these areas would be like heaven. And we had two small daughters who loved to play outside.

Our mower was a $100 Walmart push mower with a whopping 20inch wide cut and 3.5HP Briggs and Stratton engine. But then again, I was 26 years old with plenty of strength and stamina.

In the back yard I got some of those clippers that will snip through small branches and cut down all of the little trees trying to grow among the big trees. Then with my little Briggs and Stratton mower, began to whittle my way farther and farther into the mess, starting close to the back of the house and working toward the back of the property.

Each week when I mowed the yard, I would take on a little more of the mess behind the house, and after a few weeks, had the area under all the pines cleared out like a park. Grass started to grow again and it was a really pleasant and pretty place to sit and enjoy the cool evenings.

After making the back yard safe for the kids (and adults), I started the same process on that mess in the side yard. And it being grass and weeds, was 100 times thicker than the mess that had grown underneath the trees. I'd push that sad little mower forward one step, it would begin to bog down. I would press the handle down really fast to try to let the engine speed back up. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not.

This thick mess on the side was the really scary stuff, but if there were snakes in there, they had plenty of warning and decided to get away, and I ever so slowly started making inroads into the jungle. All the while, my neighbor would buzz around his yard on his nice riding mower and wave at me. It wasn't his problem.

It was such a frustrating job to work so hard with so little differenc to see, that I would work myself into near total exhaustion trying to hack that mess down. I at least wanted to be able to walk away after working on it and think, "Hey, I'm making progress" when I looked back, you know? If I had a dollar for every time I had to press on the handle to lift the blade to let the mower speed back up, and five dollars for every time I had to restart the thing because I was too slow at this and the engine stopped, I would be the third richest man in the world, behind that Mexican dude and Bill Gates.

Eventually the great day arrived where I mowed the yard as usual, and went over to the jungle and worked at it until I had completely finished it.

I was a happy man, let me tell you.

One of us might still be bitten by a snake, but it wouldn't be because I was too sorry to cut down the jungle that was so close to our house. It immediately looked SO much better that it was simply amazing. For a while, I would look out of a window just to see how good it looked to finally have that mess cut down.

Seeing how much better it looked, and how much safer I felt for us and the girls with regards to possible snakes having been hidden in the mess were the rewards I guess.

But the unforseen reward was that I now had almost a full half acre each week to mow, with my $100, 20inch cut, push mower. Fully twice the area I originally had to mow.

Sometimes I'm my own worst enemy.


Angela Marie said...

Oh Wow! You did good!
I was on the edge of my seat just reading this.

Great story! I am so happy no one got bitten by a snake.

photowannabe said...

Love your way with words John. I can identify with the lawn situation. We have gone from a small front lawn to a "football" field in the backyard of this house. Can't afford to pay the gardner too much longer to do the job. I could buy 12 lawnmowers for what he charges for the year.
Keep writing...this is great.

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