The grass isn't always greener

May 17, 1994|By Kevin Cowherd

The first thing you should know is that I am not the sort of person who is overly concerned about how his lawn looks, on account of I have a life, OK?

People who have nice lawns, they don't have a life.

Instead, what they do is, they spend all their time thatching and seeding and watering and lugging around 50-pound bags of TC fertilizer until something pops in their lower back, triggering a lifelong degenerative disc problem.

Even then they're so obsessed with their lawns that you'll still see them carrying around these huge bottles of weed killer, the kind of stuff that's so powerful it could, I don't know, eat away your toe if you spilled some on your shoe.

I ought to know, because this is what I did for 10 years, being just as dumb (if not dumber) than every other Harry Homeowner around.

Then one day last summer I took a long, hard look at my lawn. And I realized that, despite all my hard work, the lawn still looked terrible.

Not only was it an unearthly shade of color from some sort of nitrogen overdose administered weeks earlier, but it was rutted and pitted and looked like the Joad property in "The Grapes of Wrath," only not as green.

Anyway, that just about tore it for me; all this junior-varsity landscaping was getting me nowhere.

So what I did is, I went to the Yellow Pages and looked under Lawn Maintenance, where there were a few hundred companies listed, many with goofy names such as The Grass Guys or The Lawn and Short of It, that sort of thing.

So I called one and the next day, this truck with dancing flowers and singing blades of grass painted on the door pulled into my driveway.

A guy in overalls and hip boots got out and started measuring my lawn.

Then he knocked on my door and said: "Look, my name is Roy and here's how the program works. You write me out a check and I'll come by every once in a while to spray some stuff on your lawn that'll make it grow better, or maybe it won't. Do we have a deal?"

Well, it sounded fine to me, which is what I told Roy. He seemed very pleased, pleased enough to shift his Salem to the other hand so we could shake on it before he launched into a prolonged coughing fit.

But my wife was a little concerned about exactly what it was that Roy planned to spray on the lawn.

She's a real alarmist, my wife, which I blame on TV.

Because instead of watching "Coach" or "St. Elsewhere" re-runs like normal people, she watches these PBS specials titled "Are We Killing Our Planet?" and "We're All Doomed: What the Deteriorating Ozone Layer Means to You."

Whereas if you watch "Coach" or "St. Elsewhere" like I do, you don't worry about stuff like that, which I try to tell her, only it's like talking to a wall.

Anyway, she was afraid the stuff being sprayed on our lawn was toxic, and that we'd have to dress the kids in Mylex protective suits and oxygen masks every time they wanted to play outside.

Plus she wanted to know what effect the spraying would have on the dog, whether we could still let him out in the backyard without him keeling over or growing a fifth leg or what have you.

"Worst thing that happens," Roy assured us, "is the wind shifts suddenly and you all black out for a couple hours, that's all."

Upon hearing this, the blood seemed to drain from my wife's face.

Then Roy said: "Hey, that's a joke!" and he and I started punching each other in the shoulder, the way guys do when they've had a good laugh, only he was punching really hard.

There's no call for that, y'know? I wasn't punching him that hard. But these lawn care guys, they have a terrific sense of humor. They really do.

At this point, Roy tried to tell us another joke, something about how can you tell when your lawn's dead?

But it sort of fizzled out when he lapsed into another violent coughing fit and started spitting into his handkerchief.

Anyway, this is our second year with Roy and his service, and we're really starting to see some results.

I was out looking at the lawn this morning.

It's green and lush and after a while, you don't even notice the tiny vapor clouds or the trail of dead insects along the sidewalk.

This is probably neither here nor there, but we haven't seen the dog in a while, either.

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