It’s that time of year again. When the heat sets in and people start sweating, the topic of every conversation turns to the grandaddy of all frustrations down here in the south. It’s taken me a couple of years to notice how much it is talked about and how much of the culture revolves around it. It doesn’t matter if you are middle-class or income-deficient or a city dweller or a country boy. Even LSU football pales in comparison to the passion and angst and worry that comes with … are you ready for this … mowing.
I’ve lived all over the country, and mowing my yard was something that had to be done a few months out of the year. Usually my husband did it, or, in some cases, I lived in a condo and the maintenance fee took care of it. When I lived in my house in Memphis, I actually didn’t have any grass, so I didn’t have to mow at all. I used a weed-eater to take care of the little patch on the side of my house that bumped up against my neighbors house. Mowing was just something that got done on occasion during the hot summer months. Then the mower was stowed until spring-time.
When I was growing up, my PawPaw mowed all the time. He was always on his tractor mowing the acres of property where we resided. In the small amount of time that he wasn’t mowing, he was pruning azaleas, tending a garden or doing some kind of yard work. I thought it was his hobby. It was what he did, and he had a fabulous yard. I drive by that patch of property now, and I can’t believe it’s the same piece of land. I’m sure he’s up in heaven right now wringing his hands over the state of that little corner lot which received so many hours of his affection. I thought it was his love of the land and growing things that kept him going, but I think my childhood observation was inaccurate. That yard was a demanding monster who consumed its master.
She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy
I grew up in the country in Livingston Parish. So, I know lots of people there. They have big plots of land, and mowing is what they do….. ALL THE TIME. I have had men from Livingston Parish text me pictures of tractors, lawnmowers, rakes and bush-hogs. I’ve never been so familiar with John Deere. I even had a guy choose mowing over a day in Bay St. Louis with me. Kenny Chesney, it’s no wonder she thinks your tractor’s sexy. If you live in the country in the South, you are on your freaking tractor all of the time! She doesn’t have a choice. Your ass is always on that seat.
Even my citified girlfriends tonight were high-fiving when complaining passionately about the hours and hours of time they spend working on their yards. My friend Laura said, “Everybody keeps saying we need rain. I don’t want it to rain. I need some of this stuff to DIE!!” “Why don’t you move into a condo?” I asked. They love their neighborhoods, and their houses are almost paid off, so the lack of a clear choice keeps them locked into the status quo. “Why don’t you pay somebody to do it?” I asked. Laura just paid $175 for landscaping services, and it has to be done every week. It’s not affordable. Earlene said if she doesn’t do 3 hours of yard work every Friday when she gets home, she’s already behind. And she got really behind this winter. “You have to do it in the winter, too?” I asked.
Feed Me, Seymour …
I sat there listening to this conversation and thinking about all of my friends who are on a merry-go-round of mowing and landscaping down here, and I was suddenly very grateful that I have a 2-minute commute and my landlord mowing my yard. Of course, I have no equity in anything, so I’ll be paying rent or a mortgage until I die, but I have time to go kayaking and hiking and to walk my dog. I guess I’ve never been a ‘house’ kind of person. I’ve owned 7 properties throughout my life, but most have been condos. I did most of the yard-work in my first house, and, when my second husband insisted on buying a house, I flat told him that he would be doing the yard-work. I wanted a condo because I wanted to play on my days off. I don’t think he thought I was serious, but his teenage son made a good bit of money taking care of our yard.
I finally understand the mowing thing. I thought it was some kind of weird, conservative obsession like chewing tobacco. It’s more of a necessity. Tractors start to look more luxurious than boats as a weekend toy. Blowers outrank LSU season football tickets on the priority list. And, heaven forbid, you must have your own power washer. Because, down here, plants don’t just grow on the ground. Oh no no no no..… Plants grow on top of each other, all over the sides of your house and – I heard tonight – on top of your freaking roof. Weekend plans are for renters, the wealthy and condo owners. Everybody else will be mowing. It’s what they do down here.