A Boy’s Life: Labor of Lawn

In a neighborhood of do-it-yourselfers, one guy prefers golf over yard work

Now we all know at least three things that occur every time NBC-10’s EarthWatch team predicts more than one inch of snow. The roads will clog with desperate drivers heading out to buy a month’s supply of bread and milk. We all get secretly giddy from the disruption of the wintertime monotony of work and commuting. And, it nearly always misses us or changes to rain.
But when the forecast is accurate and we actually get a sizeable amount of the white stuff, a fourth phenomenon unfolds throughout suburban housing developments, even before the snow actually tapers off: It’s the march of the snowblowers.
I live in Southampton, a sleepy little Bucks County enclave about 10 miles north of Northeast Philly. It’s what’s called a “bedroom community,” i.e., it’s zoned almost exclusively residential, with a few retail shops and big box stores. It’s a nice town, and my wife and our two sons have enjoyed our life here for 20 years. Still, in all that time I’ve remained an outsider in one critical area: I don’t tinker, or landscape, or blow snow all over the place.
I’m sure your neighborhood, if you live in a town like mine, is much the same. On any Saturday morning from April to October, the mowing, trimming, pointing, driveway resurfacing and leaf blowing begins at 7:30 a.m. and carries on all day. All the guys in my neighborhood seemingly can’t wait, after working for 45 to 50 hours during the week, to spend all their precious time off, well, working.
I don’t get it.
It wasn’t always this way. Where I grew up in Northeast Philly, my dad’s idea of yard work was walking on the grass in the backyard to put the trash out. To tell you the truth, although I’m sure he often did it, I have no recollection of him ever cutting the lawn: he must have farmed this chore out early to my two older brothers, Tom and Jack.
Dad hated gas mowers. Maybe he disliked them because for 35 years he worked for the gas company, and he sure seemed to hate that whole ordeal. Anyway, Dad’s disdain for yanking that cord to start the mower may have been the defining moment in my never joining the Suburban Landscaping Brotherhood: He bought an electric mower.
Have you ever tried to mow a lawn using an electric mower? Here’s how, in four easy steps:
Disentangle 2,000-foot-long cord, because whoever cut the lawn prior to you never bothered to coil it.
Plug cord into mower and outdoor socket.
After five minutes, run over cord and sever it with mower blades, setting off a huge spark and scaring the hell out of you.
Return now-useless mower to garage.
So in addition to my urban upbringing, that’s what stunted my growth in landscaping — the electric mower. And I’m not alone, evidently: Try to find a corded one now at Home Depot or Sears.