O ur first grandchild was born this past winter, so my wife and I did the only sensible thing we could and bought the house next door to her. It came with eight acres of land which was more land than I wanted to own, but one loses all perspective where grandchildren are concerned. The property includes a pole barn, five apple trees, two persimmon trees, and four stone columns in need of repair, which I need to do soon before a stone dislodges and conks my granddaughter on the noodle. I had no idea the birth of a grandchild would lead to masonry, but there you have it.
We gave a good chunk of the land to my son, the father of said grandchild, who, thinking we were doing him a favor, was profoundly grateful. Gifts of land are always welcomed in the winter, but come summer grass needs mowing, which can test our gratitude. My son is no fan of cutting grass and might be tempted to return that present. His daughter is only three months old, but he’s already grooming her to mow.
For many years my wife and I rented a place to live, then somehow ended up owning three houses and nearly 100 acres of land. I feel the way old kings must have felt, and sometimes wish I had a peasant or two to help me out.
The bulk of our acreage is turned over to cows that wander the pastures and woodlots, dining al fresco. Of the 100 acres, I keep five of them mowed. A boy down the road mows when I can’t, but that’s hardly a break since overseeing a boy is as much work as mowing.
My son and I are alike in many ways, except when it comes to mowing. I enjoy it, if only for its prompt gratification. My other paydays lie down the road — the book that takes two years to see the light of day, the Sunday sermon that hits home five years after its delivery. But when I mow, the fruit of my labor is immediately savored. The clipped rows follow in my wake; the scent of cut grass transports me to childhood. Nothing smells like it used to except fresh-mown grass.
Everything else has changed on the grass front. When I was growing up, cutting the grass was a kid’s job. Fathers only mowed until their sons were old enough to assume the job, usually around 9 or 10. But my generation of fathers has ruined things for boys by doing the mowing ourselves. A neatly trimmed lawn has become more important than a carefully formed boy. Plus, there is a fear to mowing today that wasn’t present when I was a kid. Mowers now come festooned with warnings cautioning the user against sticking their hands and feet under the mower deck while the blades are spinning. Have we gotten so stupid we need to warn one another not to do that? When I was a boy, if you got your foot lopped off by a lawn mower, your father told you to walk it off. He maybe even cuffed you upside the head and told you not to be an idiot. The last thing he would have done is take over the mowing. I could have severed both my legs above the knees and my dad would have said, “That grass isn’t going to cut itself. Better get busy.”
I’m using the words father and boy on purpose, since mothers and girls never mowed when I was a kid. Occasionally, one might see a farm wife mowing the yard, but even that was rare. My sister is 59 and has never, not once, mowed a single strip of grass. I’m all for equal rights and equal pay and would happily throw out all the men in public office and replace them with women, but I draw the line at women cutting grass. I know plenty of women mow grass nowadays, but it seems wrong, like women playing football. Having said that, I’ll probably change my mind when I’m too old to mow and my granddaughter offers to cut my grass.