Counting To Fifty

Harry Drabik

After the past rainy weeks, the grass took off. As you know, for unpaid entertainment few things surpass the fun of mowing long wet grass, but the plains of Hovland had to fall and the only way was via the pains of Harry. I don’t like mowing. I detest it; have ever since I was thirteen, when Mom and Dad set eyes upon the prize of best lawn and realized they had a slave to accomplish the goal. The initial fun was done mostly by a bucket loader ripping off the top foot of raw glacial soil. Next came tons of rock picking, tons of it, before the second act of laying down thick layers, six inches each, of sandy loam and black gunk Mom and Dad called  dirt and everyone else scoffed at as muskeg. I sided with the scoffers, but as my paycheck (food, etc.) came from the deluded, I let that sleeping canine repose in the sun. Messing with soil is extra entertaining with the addition of black flies. I had so much fun (far more than I deserved) that I was glad to see the end of it all nicely raked, seeded, and rolled with no more to do until Mom Nature did her magic than apply water, though even that simple task seemed to annoy my blistered hands.
I was glad to be done with it, but done I was not. With the green up and thriving in its foot-thick bed of soil, it required mowing with a gas-powered push affair that vibrated well enough to aggravate healed blisters. I’m quite sure I hated the mower from the very first day. I saw a gas-gulping nemesis. It lived in our garage, where I assiduously avoided its area unless ordered, “Go mow.” That was not a cheer, but it drove me to the cursed corner where the beast waited to be hauled into the open air, where fuel and a war of wills involving the pull start could go on until I injured several joints and formed new blisters. Dad hadn’t settled for a puny mower. He got the widest available. We could have cut Nebraska alfalfa with the thing, which in consequence of constantly being overfed too much grass spit out wads I knew meant trouble because God help me if grass clumps were seen blemishing the perfect lawn with edges clipped to precise perfection (more blister food) and spring-tooth raked  (a blister feast) to glorious manicure.
Really, we needed a couple of Japanese gardeners to look after the place, but Mom and Dad had me and in kindness spared innocent Asians. On knees at bedside, I nightly entreated for locusts, drought, or whatever plague the Almighty could spare to ravish our yard. Nothing came except good soaking rains. When that failed, I’d be tasked to shuffle sprinklers front and rear according to a precise schedule. Our previous house had an automatic sprinkler system, but I was cheaper and just as effective.
Our lawn looking lush as paradise wasn’t good enough. It had to look more heavenly yet. Enter fertilizer in all its forms.  If a little was good, then a little more was so much the better, and so on and so on. Suddenly, and it came as quite a surprise to me, Mom and Dad were in love with fertility, though I need qualify that by saying their fertile inclinations were limited to flora. Grass, Colorado blue spruce, roses, begonias, and everything else around our house were encouraged to be fecund out of all proportion to natural need. This generous inclination, however, left me out. That struck me as quite uneven because at the time I was strongly curious about the various workings of fertility. But instead of pedaling casually off on my three-speed escape mechanism, I was shackled to our yard, which was a lot less interesting than an afternoon at the Hoyt Lakes beach, where, lifeguards notwithstanding, guards were generally down. I’d see my fortunate peers sweep down the hill and I’d observe their trickling return from my prison perch on the greenest lawn in town. How I hated every curve and rock border needing tedious care. A straight line mow of thirty feet was cause for joy; otherwise it was jig around this or dodge that every few feet. Did I say I hated it?
More than lawn mowing prompts this writing. I know the cause. In less than a month I’ll be at my 50th reunion at the old high school on the Range. Thirty some years ago, when a neighbor told of attending his 50th that summer, I automatically assumed he’d report to a mortician immediately afterward to make arrangements. I distinctly recall thinking, “Gads, Bob is old!” Well, he was. I expect there will be some old folks at my reunion, but I hope not to be among them. Shaping up for the event, I’ve stopped eating. Weight loss by starvation is remarkably effective. After the first week the pangs go as if by magic, but the dizziness and falling over upon rising are bothersome. I may need to snack on something in order to make the three-hour drive.
I wasn’t particularly close to all but one or two classmates. I saw that as a kindness on my part. I expect there’d be acclamation at that. I’ve also noted that with each reunion they seem a lot nicer than I remember them. They’ve improved, not me. I’m still the same sinister presence who lurked on the side in physics to plot wondrous methods of classroom implosion before the next test. Another thing revealed at earlier reunions is that a good many of the girls have held together far better than the boys, many having become bowling ball in physique. (Have I mentioned starvation?) Clear to me, too, is how many male classmates have married well. They arrive at reunions accompanied by women of considerable charm and attractiveness. As I’ve seen their husbands naked in gym, I’m inclined to give those ladies high points for kindheartedness, generosity of spirit, and sense of humor.