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Sometimes in life, you just have to cut it

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Confessions of a lapsed lawn mower.

By Steve Doyle

You may recall that recently our family moved from the suburbs to a small farm, that we have been going through a sort of a sociological withdrawal, somewhat of a remake of Green Acresfor the new millennium, minus Oliver Douglas’s suits and Lisa’s gowns, Hank Kimball and the pig.

Our transformation hasn’t been anywhere nearly as harsh as having to ride a train to the grocery – albeit sometimes feeling that way – but we are learning daily that life a few miles in another direction from the center of our universe could leave our planets out of alignment.

That awakening has been roosterishly rude at times, not so much as to deter us, mind you, just sort of life letting us know that we’re not in the big city any more and that things are going to change.

Those stories occasionally will seep out of my fingers and onto the keyboard, and today I want to share with you how a move to the farm created a special gift from my wife – a gift she didn’t recognize and that I couldn’t have arranged this if I had held our wireless modem aloft, pointed it to the west, typed www.reversepsychologytips.com (if such a thing were to exist) and waited 15 minutes for it to load.

But, oh my, a gift it was. More about that later.

You see, when you move to a farm, you get what local residents like to call “acreage.” In my days on the dairy, we simply called the open spaces “fields,” but now we have “paddocks” and “acreage.”

And with “acreage” comes, you know, grass.

And where there’s grass, you have to, well, mow.

And I mean mow. For hours. Up and down hills and along hollows and spinning around trees and bushes and through gates and avoiding hoses and along fences.

We weren’t really rubes who didn’t anticipate this, of course. We in fact invested our egg money in a spanking new, industrial-strength, zero-radius mower that can cut a strip wider than some driveways, move at 8 miles per hour and carve a Q and leave the tale if you want.

It’s also the first lawn mower I’ve ever driven for more than a few feet, which feels as if I’ve accelerated from the Kentucky Derby to the Indy 500.

I grew up pushing a little Craftsman across an acre-or-so that my brother and I divided equally (at least it seemed equal to me, given my older-brother command of the fractions), around a cursed bunch of redbuds, mimosas and forsythias.

And here is where irony strikes motherlodes in this story:

I’m a guy who declared while living in Florida in the 1980s that I had retired from the 10 months of mowing, trimming and yard-of-the-month work that was part of life in the subtropical ‘burbs. I even purchased two houses on what folks there call zero-lot-line properties, which means you have maybe a pallet’s worth of sod around your bungalow.

At one of them, I paid some guys to mow the front and back yards. At the other the front was handled by contractors with the homeowners’ association, to whom I paid a little extra to use their trimmers to cut my side and back yard (their mowers wouldn’t go through my gate).

No mowing did I do, not a weed did I eat for, oh, about 20 years. And not a moment did I miss it.

A couple of moves, though, tearfully brought mowing back into my life, a little Lawnboy that serves as a teaching tool for our slender, almost-11-year-old son to push around a suburban lot.

And now we have acreage and a new, weekly routine that requires waiting for the dew to dry, trying to beat the heat and guessing windage to avoid the blowback of dust and grass-clippings when making those amazing U-turns. I try to make it art and sport at the same time.

Here’s vein No. 2 of irony (and where the gift comes in):

My wife loves to mow, but she has asthma, which pretty much doesn’t cut it when it comes to the lawn.

Yet, on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend, with forecasts of torrential rains looming, I had mounted up on my big yellow steed and set out to start mowing the harriest portion of the property, when my wife summoned me near the house, where she told me, in so many warm and loving words something like:

“I didn’t get to mow last weekend” – that was because her now-condo-dwelling dad had visited and wanted to have a spin or two – “and it’s Mother’s Day weekend, and for my Mother’s Day, I want to mow.”

Not wanting to cause her to be upset or anything and doing my dead-level best to make her happy every day, not just Mother’s Day, I sheepishly dismounted and told her I wanted her to have a really good time.

So she mowed. And she mowed. And she mowed. All the yard, the treacherous ditches by the road and even one paddock.

And she was happy.

And so was I. Sort of.

You know, like the giving tree, who gave of herself to the boy she loved until she had nothing left to give.

So at dinnertime, I offered up my stump: She parked the mower, and I used the blower to clean it up and then drove it into storage and sent her smiling and wheezing into the showers to fight an unsuccessful battle against the dust and pollen.

And, today, I say thanks to her for that special gift. Love you, honey.

And thanks to God that tropical storm Debby isn’t bringing all that rain to us, which would cause days of mowing, not just hours.

And thanks, too, that I don’t have to use that rotary push mower that Eb used around the old Haney Place.