Confessions of impure and watery thoughts


August 29, 1999|By Mike Burns

I AM MUCH obliged to Bruce Cowan, the Carroll County schools' athletic director, for pointing out the important safety reasons to water our lawns despite the proclaimed drought. County athletic fields must be watered to retain their green, cushiony vitality when football, field hockey and soccer players hit the turf hard, with any part of their bodies, he said.

The reason, Mr. Cowan explained: It would be dangerous for young athletes to endure the jolt of sun-baked, rock-hard playing fields during practices or games.

"This is a safety situation There's the risk of concussions, broken bones and fractures," he said.

I'd considered that rationale myself. Watching the family front-yard crinkle and turn the color of shredded wheat, exposing the bone-dry terra cotta soil in between the shrinking clumps of fading fescue, I was struck by the possibility that it could injure the small children who play there with reckless abandon.

Grass burns on knees are not uncommon for these energetic tykes. Scrapes and bruises from falls off bikes in the driveway keep our pantry stocked with no-ouch antiseptic. Likewise yellow-jacket stings and cat scratches.

But a child falling or running on the unforgiving, rock-riddled dying lawn -- that was a far more dangerous prospect. It needed prompt attention, even if it would make me a scofflaw in the eyes of Governor Smart Water.

How to do so without attracting the neighbors' attention?

That ruled out rotary sprinklers because of their noise and visibility to anyone glancing at the yard. The cover of night for watering would be necessary in any case, even though nocturnal soaking may cause root mold and a profusion of toadstools.

Branded a sociopath

The embarrassment of buying new soaker hoses at the hardware store, where the owner's unflinching gaze would brand me as a callous sociopath, made that alternative unacceptable. She might even ask me loudly, "What are you going to do with these things," exposing me to the scorn of her law-abiding customers.

That left me with two apparent options: 1) haul heavy buckets of water from the spigot and dump them over patches of the wannabe turf, a decidedly unpleasant exertion, or 2) sprinkle by hand with a leaky drugstore vinyl hose that I could quickly cut off at the sight of an informer.

Other ideas came to me as I drove about the community.

In one neighborhood, I saw a good citizen hosing his flower bed in the front yard. Nothing against the rules in that.

Then he would casually, with practiced nonchalance, swivel around with the spouting hose and spray his car in the nearby driveway. Suds ran off the glistening vehicle, suggesting it had been pre-soaped before being parked in such a convenient spot.

Was this man deliberately trying to break the law, or was it inadvertent absent-mindedness that kept him from concentrating the hosing full time on his parched posies?

Another community spirit took hose in hand to cool down and rehydrate her youngsters in the yard, a life-saving deed, no doubt. But as the little ones in their swimsuits grew bored with the water play, the mom kept moving the hose from side to side on the lawn.

Was she waiting for her offspring to regain their enthusiasm? At least the water wasn't wasted, she could rationalize, because it fell on the unintended target of parched grass.

With a knowledge of such evasions, I prepared for the nighttime ablutions of my withering verdure. The first night I was too tired to do it. The second night we had to visit relatives.

But the third chance proved the charm. And by grace of divine intervention from above, I escaped from a potential life of crime. In bursts of thunder, the skies opened up and poured down their unstrained mercy, drenching the begging roots of grass and slaking their abiding thirst. The welcome rainfall was repeated almost daily during the past week, making our grass again safe for children at play.

The official drought and the official restrictions on outdoor water use are still in force, however. No lawn watering or car washing allowed, by state order.

The governor has made it a criminal offense to waste water, punishable by a fine of $1,000 and six months in jail. Despite significant reductions in water use in Carroll and statewide, most of it from the voluntary cooperation of consumers, there's no indication of a rules relaxation. We must continue to conserve.

New definition for summer

In fact, this summer has changed our definition of good weather. Good weather for most of us (farmers often excluded) used to be clear skies, bright sun and hot temperatures; it was "beach weather," even if we were just sitting at home on the porch basking in the ultraviolet.

Now, the only good summer weather day is draped with dark-hulled clouds, cooler temps and a resuscitating drizzle or, better yet, a relentless shower that actually forms puddles in the lawn. Without the use of a garden hose.

Mike Burns is The Sun's editorial writer in Carroll County.

Pub Date: 8/29/99

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