By this time of the year, no man wants to mow

Published 8:50 am Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Al Batt, Tales from Exit 22

It’s hot.

You may have heard.

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Someone has surely asked you, “Is it hot enough for you?”

It’s hotter than a fry cook’s knuckle. It’s hot enough to steam clams. Hotter than a Phoenix sidewalk in July. Hot as Satan’s toenails. Hotter than a burning stump.

We are kept informed as to the heat index and the dew point. It’s easier to stay cool when I don’t know what the heat index and the dew point are. I think I’m allergic to weather reports.

The extremely hot and humid weather causes polar bears to feel sorry for us. It makes the wind chill factor sound like a good thing. Air conditioning spoils us. We notice heat more when much of our environment is cooled artificially.

Al Batt

I observe those who toil under the hot sun. I empathize with them. I have roofed. It was hard on the ankles and knees, but great for sweat. A friend compared roofing on a hot day to shoveling coal in hell. I perspired so much that there were sweat stains on my loafers. The heat keeps a roofer’s mind out of the gutter. I have baled hay on sizzling days. I found great pleasure in riding on a hayrack to the barn. The breeze provided by that trip was a gift. I’ve operated a jackhammer on sultry days. A trial by fire that left me quivering in my sleep. The sound of a wind sighing through the trees kept me going.

Now I mow the lawn on scorching days. Only mad dogs, Englishmen, and those who mow lawns go out in the midday sun. My lawn is not a jewel of the township. I feel that the huge spot of dead grass in the shape of Oklahoma adds an air of mystery.

The continuing saga of lawn care has an obsessive-compulsive aspect. Some experts suggest that the pursuit of the perfect lawn emerged after World War II and was fueled by conformity and consumerism. A green lawn fetish evolved with desires for yards as smooth as butter. Because many grass species are exotic and difficult to grow, the elusive perfect lawn is a high-maintenance scheme. There are two kinds of lawns — the hoped for and the extant. Despite the fact that husbands are like lawn mowers, difficult to get started and work half the time, men began getting “Born to mow lawn” tattoos on their biceps.

I read a report saying that 75,000 people are injured annually in this country while using lawn mowers and other lawn care tools. Soon we will be required to attend lawn mower school, obtain a lawn-mowing license and wear helmets while doing any type of lawn care.

My neighbor Gizmo has a riding mower the size of a farm tractor that he uses to mow a lawn the size of a pool table. It’s like using a cruise ship to angle for sunfish. I’m not poking fun at Gizmo. I’d like to have his tractor, but I couldn’t afford to keep it in gas. His new machine gave me cause to consider daylight-saving time. We spring ahead so we have an extra hour of light in the evening. This gives us additional time to accomplish tasks like mowing the lawn. Gizmo’s tractor has headlights. He can mow in the dark. Who needs daylight-saving time? What’s next for Gizmo — a combination minivan/riding lawn mower?

I have a long history of fighting the fight against elevated grass. I have used an old push mower that lacked an engine. It was like pushing a giant log chain uphill.

There is no magic in the relationship between my lawn and me. Why does my lawn need to wear a crew cut? I find no more joy walking on the lawn than I do walking in the lawn. I would love to turn sheep loose and check back in three weeks. I mow the lawn because I love the smell of freshly cut weeds.

A friend honors mowing by saying, “It feels good to sweat, doesn’t it?”

Apparently, he was released too early from that institution. When he yells, “Bingo!” he’s still a few squares short. He is Larry, Curly and mow.

Thoughts sustain me as I manicure my lawn. These thoughts make it possible for me to maintain mow-mentum.

I will miss the heat in January. Hot weather is better than cold weather because hot weather is faster than cold. You can catch a cold. I could be using a scissors. In just two days from now, tomorrow will be yesterday and the weather will have changed.

I mow while mumbling to myself, “My lawn is not the boss of me.”

Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.