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It's Lawn-Mowing Season Again

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

Or... How golf on TV has ruined life in suburbia

The lawn-mowing season is upon us. Darn you Arnold Palmer! I have nothing personally against one of the greatest golfers in history, a man who owned a farm in Pennsylvania and drove a John Deere tractor, as I recall. He's a gracious gentleman whom I once had the pleasure of meeting. But my beef is what he and other golfers have done to summer. Once upon a time, people had yards around their houses. They cut them occasionally, tried to keep the weeds under control, and pulled grass out from between the cracks in the sidewalk. The really industrious yard owners would plant gardens. The rest of the time, they played badminton or croquet in their yards, or they set up little swimming pools for their kids to play in. Or the kids would get out the garden hose and chase each other around with water when they couldn't go swimming. Then came Palmer, and Gary Player, and Jack Nicklaus, and Lee Trevino and all the rest. Thanks to color TV and long Sunday afternoons, we were able to watch them chase a little white ball around miles of luxurious, lush, green fairways and greens. Since most Americans could not aspire to play golf the way they did, they settled for the next best thing: trying to make their yards look like the fairways at Augusta and Torrey Pines. Yards suddenly went from being merely patches of green between houses in suburban America, to being competitive surfaces on which were played out the dramas of man versus ragweed and thatch. Eventually, the walk-behind lawn mower gave way to the riding lawn mower, which was probably designed to look like the little tractors that golf courses use to collect balls at the driving range. Then, the riding mowers started coming with "rollers," so you could make alternating patterns in the grass -- just like the golf courses on TV. If you drive through neighborhoods where the serious lawn groomers live, you will see them out there picking away at the first hint of a weed. They have little outbuildings full of every weapon known to mankind for the conquering of anything not directly connected with the one type of grass they have elected to grow in their kingdoms. When they're not out there grooming away, their automatic sprinklers are churning away, at precisely the right time to maximize the effectiveness of the water they are scattering. The one thing you will almost never see is ANYONE ACTUALLY OUT ON THE GRASS ENJOYING IT. Heaven forbid! Touch the grass? Walk across the grass without doing so to ferret out an imperfect blade? To do so would be akin to drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa! My house is built on sandy soil. About the only thing that thrives there are crabgrass and sand hornets. I do my best to keep from dragging down property values in my neighborhood. I run my edger (weed-eater) and lawn mower across this sad scrub of green every week or so, and conscientiously pull the weeds out from the cracks in the sidewalk. But it will never be a showplace. So when the warmth of Spring once again set the weeds and the crabgrass and the few blades of grass that I have, to growing, I get out the weed-eater and the edger and go to work. And I say in somewhat stronger words than I'll put here: Darn you Arnold Palmer!
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