Though I have been grateful for the nearly daily rain to keep the temperatures down most days, it has had the unwanted side effect of making the grass grow like nobodyís business.
I kid you not, my neighbor cut half of his yard on Friday and the other half on Saturday, and there was a good half-inch difference in the cuts. The grass had grown that much overnight!
Everyone knows how much I love grass-cutting. I have about three acres to take care of between my yard and my momís. Thankfully, my neighbor has a big tractor with a big cutting deck and cuts the couple of acres behind the house at the bayouside for me.
I have two lawn mowers. One is a 42-inch department store special that I disdainfully call Beelzebub because I am certain I know exactly where it was manufactured. Beelzebub cuts a wide swath which makes the chore less time-consuming, but it rarely cuts level. It usually leaves lines on one side or the other, and thereís no rhyme or reason to it. Once it caught itself actually cutting perfectly, silky-smooth level and blew out an inner tube in the back tire out of sheer meanness.
The other is a 30-inch cut that I refer to as Gen. George Armstrong Custer. It cuts the grass very well, but like the infamous U.S. Calvary commander himself, it is sneaky, dishonest and cowardly about it. The General will approach a patch of grass and, if finding itís taller than it can chew, chokes up, sputters, coughs and shuts down in terror. The General is so much like its namesake that I often have to coax it into moving at all when it realizes itís on an Indian reservation and completely surrounded.
Well, this Sunday when I went to cut grass Beelzebub had apparently imbibed too much fire and brimstone and would not start. A little investigation revealed that the starter was shot. Since it was clear I wouldnít have one of those lying around, I put it away and retrieved the General.
The General had a bad negative battery cable but I patched that up and, since it hadnít run in awhile, I had to crank it quite some time to get it to fire. All this time, you realize, the sweat is pouring off my forehead and nose and onto the mower, and I feared the salty moisture might rust the General, but it simply sizzled and evaporated the instant it hit the red metal.
Finally the General sputtered, coughed and woke up with a hangover, another credit to its namesake. Once rejuvenated, we took off for the job at hand.
Cutting nearly two acres of land by 30-inch swaths in 97 degree weather with a heat index of 113 is no laughing matter. Iíve said it before that whoever conceived of heat indexes ought to be put in a sauna for a day without relent. Itís not bad enough that the weatherman can tell you, "Itís going to be 97 degrees tomorrow." Thatís pretty depressing on its own. But no. He has to add, "With the humidity, the heat index will be 113 degrees." Itís like wind chill, I guess, in the winter. It might be 35 degrees but with the wind chill it "feels like" 20 degrees. This is, in my book, information we as a culture lived without for centuries and donít need to know now.
Anyway, I managed to get the whole yard cut, trimmed and rather neat at last. And just as I was about to get on the General again to go do my momís yard, it sputtered, coughed, hiccuped, called for another round of doubles, and retired for the evening.
I suspect itís a fuel filter problem from sitting up for so long, but I was too tired, cranky and suffering from heat-indexitis to pursue the matter further. My neighbor comes up on his big tractor behind me while Iím spraying some herbicide around the trees in the bayouside pasture and I say, "You be sure and let me know when it gets hot, hear?" and the look on his face told me the humor was notwithstanding at all.
I hope that in a couple months two things will happen: The heat will relent and, due to shorter days, the grass will grow less vigorously. If it was up to me, Iíd let the whole yard go to nature. Throw a dozen pounds of wildflower seeds from road to bayou and call it a day. My yard could be a mini wildflower preserve on the Rez, and my neighbors on either side and across the street could look in envy (or disgust, depending) from their well-manicured, freshly-mown lawns while they mop sweat off their brows with beach towels. Eventually birds will move in and Iíll have a bird sanctuary, and in even more time, I might have to declare the property an endangered species region because of its resident endangered species: Me. Iím endangered because the ostriches have built a nest next to the General and a pride of lions has made a home around Beelzebub and the male of the pride likes to sit atop its vine-covered hood and search the surrounding three-acres of wilderness for wildebeest. When you see me come home and turn into my driveway Ė I am now driving one of those Mutual Of Omahaís Wild Kingdom safari jeep-things Ė I vanish at once and all you see are the plants swaying as I make my way to the front door, fending off the pythons, anacondas, lions and occasional displaced Sasquatch.
Well, I hate cutting grass, anyway. Thatís all I was trying to say. That and it sure it is hot, ainítí it?