When it comes to maintaining my yard, the luck stops here

image It was the sweet, yet somehow guilt-ridden aroma of fresh-cut grass wafting from my neighbor’s yard that inspired me to uncover the mower and plot a course for adventure last weekend. Though I knew my decision would alter the course of an entire ecosystem that had evolved within our front yard over the past month, I had nothing but the best of intentions when I set out to cut the grass last on Saturday.

Keeping in mind Murphy’s Law says that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, those of you who experienced a problem-free day of activities on Saturday can thank me — because Mr. Murphy spent the day at my house.

Given the fact that any yard hazards (dog bones, garden hoses, hibachis, small bicycles, etc.) had long been swallowed by what appeared to be grass genetically altered to grow at the speed of light, there was no small amount of trepidation in my hands as I unscrewed the gas cap to check my fuel supply.

And, of course, the tank was empty.

After a trip to the bank and a draw against the mortgage, I filled the gas can and returned home even more determined to accomplish my mission. As the sun approached noon, I curled my fingers around the pull cord and made the first of 50 yanks on my E-Z Start Mower until finally, on the 51st attempt, the rope snapped.

I wasn’t particularly ready for this when it happened.

So when my arm continued backward, the rest of me went with it. Fortunately for me, an English walnut tree was there to break my fall. As I slid down the tree trunk and face-first onto the grass, I was reminded of how much I hate walnuts. I rolled onto my back and lay there for a minute, still clutching the rubbery pull-cord handle while staring up through the grass at the sky, contemplating my next move.

I would disassemble the mower and reattach the cord.

Honestly, how hard could it be? If I could fix my daughter’s “See-And-Say,” which is basically the same thing (just turned sideways and with animal noises), surely I could fix this. Things started out harmless enough: three small screws around the outside of the compartment that housed the pulley. I removed them, lifted the cap off and peered down at what appeared to be a rather simplistic mechanical configuration thingy. Centering the pulley was one large bolt, which probably threaded itself into the motor somewhere (I’m still not sure). I adjusted my crescent wrench onto the bolt head and turned it — just a little at first.

Then a little more.

A little moooore.

Until I felt the bolt completely strip out. At which point I realized the bolt actually threads backwards.

It wasn’t over yet, I assured myself, and retrieved the Weed-Eater from the back porch. It would take longer, and look about as choppy as a hair-cut from a barber school dropout, but I would get the grass cut.

Feeling more than a little satisfaction knowing that Murphy had met his match, I raised the Weed-Eater and pressed the trigger, listening to the solid “whirrrr” of fishing line slicing the air — then watched as the spool shot off like a rocket launcher, still whirring as it disappeared somewhere between Nopal and Bay streets.

I stood there with my Weed-Eater, which had gone from whirring to whining to screeching, and relented.

So, to my neighbors: I promise to get things spruced up by this weekend. To my kids: I’ll find your bikes soon. To my dog and cat: Stick together and you’ll be safe.

To everyone else: Any chance you’d be willing to entertain Murphy for me this weekend?

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

58 thoughts on “When it comes to maintaining my yard, the luck stops here”

  1. It could have magically started while you were trying to work on it. And it could have been on top of a mound of dog feces. Then the feces splattered all over you. Then your water was shut off. And you could only breathe through your nose for some reason.

  2. Haha. You poor bastard. Hope you work that out and show Mr. Murphy (did I mention my grandfather is Mr. Murphy? Its OK though, he died years ago) who is boss!

  3. No prob Ned, I’ve got your back on this one. I’ve had a near death experience and several close calls every time I take that Fat Bob out so I’ll just go for a ride Saturday and that should keep Murphy busy the whole weekend. Don’t let him win!!

  4. I suggest investing in a small flock of sheep. Or goats. Also, the directions to your dog and cat made me laugh out loud 🙂 .

  5. Ha! Well done Ned! I wondered why Saturday was so problem free. I have a sad story of my own to tell you about a lawnmower. This happened 9 years ago, and this is the first time I’ve ever admitted it – so I’m rather sensitive and don’t want any raucous laughter at the end please. It is embarrassing. At the time, I was boarding in a family home (not my family) that was a back-split on a large wedge-shaped lot at the end of a dead end street with a turnaround (all this to say it was a lot of grass). I had only lived there about a month and was still finding my way around. The family was out one beautiful summer Saturday and I was sitting on the front deck having a beer (or two, or three…). I noticed that the grass desparately needed cutting and I decided I’d give them a surprise and do it for them while they were out. I looked all around the yard and spied a shed in a back “corner” – remember, the lots are wedge-shaped (this is key). The shed was unlocked and, sure enough, right there inside the door was the lawn mower, a gas can and a weed whacker- all full of gas and ready to go. Winner! Anticipating unbounded thanks upon the family’s return – I got at it. Two hours and all the gas later, I finished and returned everything to the shed. I secured yet another beer (good thing I’d stocked up – it was all worth it) and sat back down on the front porch to relax and await my accolades. Shortly thereafter, everyone returned and Jane, the matriarch, stood admiring the lawn and asked an odd question: “Who mowed the lawn?” I would have thought that self-evident but replied: “I did.” She responded: “Where did you get the lawnmower?” and before I could reply, she used a key to open the garage door and there sat a lawnmower. Somewhat taken aback, I said “I used the one in the shed.” “What shed?” I walked to the edge of the wedge shaped property and pointed down what I though was the property line to the shed. She came over and looked, then moved over 10 feet towards our house and said: “The property line is over here and that is our neighbors shed.” Long silence. She sighed and finished the conversation with; “Well, I guess I owe our neighbors a bottle of wine.”

    1. Lol! At this point, my lawn is well beyond the realm of push mowing, unless it’s tied to an ox. But once I get this thing mowed, I’m seriously getting a push mower to maintain it. Or possibly a goat.

  6. Ha ha ha… thank you so much for the laughs I can only empathise with your situation. It happens to us all and Saturday sounds like it would have been much better spent under a duvet. Hope the walnut tree survived! 😀

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Especially after confronting our walnut tree! By the way, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your radio show with Tom last month. It was entertaining, thoughtful and insightful — all things Tom.

      Well done — and thank you 😉

        1. Oh, you’re right! I’m SO sorry about that! I have read some of his posts on your blog and, being 47 , my brain made the obvious and completely unfounded link. Regardless, I know you have played a big part in encouraging Tom’s writing pursuits — to which we’re all grateful 😉 And I’m just a dork…

          1. Ha ha.. you are a dork who has made me laugh today so I am cool with that! 🙂 And there’s nothing wrong with being 47.. it is the new 30, or is that 21? I am in my forties, memory is not what it used to be! 😀

            1. Haha! Thanks, Jade 😉
              Bill Cosby once said he believes are memory is located in our rears, because once we sit down we remember what we were supposed to be doing. I tend to agree more and more with that — and your proclamation of 47 being the new… uh, what was it again? I better go sit down so I can remember… 😉

              1. Ha ha…! I have never heard that but it is oh so true.. and what a great excuse for sitting down all day 😀 Now I have to go and sit down because I can’t remember why I was supposed to be sitting down.. 😀

  7. Good one. We live in Florida and there is a small lake in the back of the house. It contains an alligator. So as I mow the backyard I have that to watch out for Add to that snakes and bugs and it is a little more than a chore. Murphy and I are BFF and he is determined to best me.

    1. Hahaha! That puts some needed perspective on mowing our lawn; I’ll never have to worry about a snake dropping out of our walnut tree, or an alligator crawling out from behind it!

  8. I’m terrible at all things suburban–especially yard work. I’m just not wired for it. My yard is a study in Darwinism. It’s survival of the fittest. If the weeds are the most powerful fauna, then they rule.

    1. That sounds like a very practical approach. And my neighbors would practically kill me if I let my yard get like that. It’s not like there’s an official neighborhood group or anything, but I’m already skating on thin ice because I left my icicle lights up until March.

      1. Not only is it practical, I save a ton in fertilizers and weed-n-feed.

        What the hell kind of neighborhood do you live in? Do they have kids named Hunter, Reid and Laird? (Actual first names of some of my 7-year old daughter’s friends.)

        1. Our home is in the Old Town district, which sees a lot of tourists — so they like things to look nice. I tell them that’s why my wife works in the yard in shorts and a hot-pink tank top…

  9. Up here in the Great White North, we are only just catching a glimpse of our grass. Most of our shovels are broken from overuse this year & it could take us months to sweep the salt off of our sidewalks. Of course, we will most likely all expire from iodine poisoning.

                1. …see…this is WHY you dont tell when bolts gets completely stripped. next time, keep that crap to yourself. and dont go backwards…always clockwise…

  10. It’s time for a lawn service, Ned. Other than the loss of brilliant post material, it’s all positive. You give them a call, leave your house for an errand, and the grass is magically shorter when you return. Sure, there’s a check to write at the end of the month, but given what your ER bill could have been (not to mention the lawsuits from the neighbors when you launch that weed eater over the fence), I think you’ll still come out ahead. 😀

  11. Misery might love company, but not as much as comedy loves yardwork! It really is a bottomless pit of material, says the woman who attempted to give the shrubs a trim and instead gave them a cut known in the military as a “high and tight.”

  12. I don’t mind lawn work, truth be told.
    There’s something satisfying about ripping trees out of the ground and ruling over my own private kingdom (my backyard), isn’t there?
    Perhaps I’ve shared too much…

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