Evolution of a yardman

SOME THINGS just stick in your mind.

As a kid, a century ago, living with my family in Florida, one of my responsibilities was mowing the yard. I was not fond of it.

That ended when I graduated from high school and headed off to college in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt. Ahem!

Flash forward about a quarter century. I bought my first house — in Houston, Texas. It had a yard. Two, actually. One out front abutting the street and another out back abutting the rear neighbors who, strangely, in my nine years there, I never met.

Once again, I was faced with mowing a lawn, and here’s where the moment came that sticks in my mind.

I was mowing the front lawn for the first time, and a neighbor across the street walked over. I mentioned that I had not cut a lawn in decades. Her response was: It hasn’t changed any, has it?

I laughed. No, it had not.

clippersI mowed that lawn for nine years until 1995 when my then-wife divorced me for an illegal-alien yardboy. Just a coincidence that. She worked at a plant nursery.

I moved into an apartment and then another. No yards. And then I moved to Mexico in 2000, renting a two-story house that came with its own yardman. Indeed, I was not confronted with a yard that needed cutting until 2003 when we moved into the new Hacienda.

My new lawnmower was not big, and it sported a Briggs and Stratton motor. Those engines have changed little since I was mowing in Florida. They are clunky. A couple of years later, I bought a bigger, better mower from Sears that came with a good Craftsman motor.

For about six years, I mowed the grass. I got older. I got my wife to chip in, 50-50. I got older. That was when I hired Abel the deadpan neighbor to cut the grass. I still did the edging with a weedeater. I got older still.

About a month ago, I hired a guy down the street who has his own gas weedeater to edge the Hacienda lawn. I am out of the yard business in all its aspects. Last week, after removing the extension cord, I hung my electric weedeater on a wall. That’s all she wrote.

I’ll hit 71 very soon. It’s interesting to watch life wind down.

Time to smell the roses, which hopefully are not growing overhead.

24 thoughts on “Evolution of a yardman”

  1. Interesting timing. Spring of last year I turned 70. I had been doing yard work for most of 40 years, but told my wife it was time to end. So we sold our rather large home with swimming pool and moved to a villa where exterior is taken care of (for a price). I am now 71 and do not regret this decision. I prefer life moving on, to life winding down. Not yet ready to accept that part.

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    1. Mike M: My best guy friend here in town died a decade back at 79. My father died in 1991 at 75. So I think this may be one interesting decade ahead. In any event, time to quit mowing the yard.

      A former coworker of mine dropped dead of a heart attack in his mid-50s while cutting his lawn in sweltering Houston heat. But he was a very heavy smoker. That didn’t help his odds.

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      1. I have had friends die in their 50s and have several with heart issues who will not see 80. My father made it to 85 and my mother 91. So far, my health issues have been minor and am hoping I have some of the good family genes. That being said we never know what may be in store for us.

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        1. Mike M: Being long-lived is not necessarily a good thing. My mother made it to 90, but she was a real physical wreck the last few years. I would not want that. My father went out like a light from a heart attack. I prefer that but perhaps later than 75, which sounds less old the closer I get to it.

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  2. Felipe,

    As my father-in-law recently said of my dad, “esta nuevo.” (My dad will turn 75 next month.) He still mows his lawn in front and in back. He briefly had me do it for him when he had a cancer bout in 2008 for one summer, but ever since then he’s been doing it himself along with all the other household duties. You have PLENTY of years left in you, Felipe. In fact, I want to visit with you and your beautiful wife once we do retire and move down to Mexico again!

    Cheers,
    Mike

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    1. Mike: Oh, I could still mow my lawn now just fine. I just don’t want to, simple as that, and since help can be hired so cheaply here …

      As for your visiting up here in the mountains when you finally get around to retiring, that could be 15 or even 20 years more. I suspect I’ll be pushing up those proverbial daisies by that time. Maybe not.

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    2. P.S.: When you finally make it up the mountaintop, try and come for Nov. 1. You can accompany my child bride to the neighborhood cemetery and stay up all night with her and the candles and marigolds next to my crypt.

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  3. I took another route to lawn retirement. I bought a house that has a courtyard, but no lawn. Sure, I need to pick up flowers and leaves from the ever-cascading vine detritus. But it is a fair trade.

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  4. We’ll be moving from an apartment next week, to a small home that comes with a gardener. Not too much for him to do what with a small yard, and with the drought here in California, most lawns are dried out patches of dirt. No doubt that the gardener will be a Mexicano as they all are in California. Maybe he can sit and have a cafecito on the patio with us after he clips a few weeds. I’ll be 70 in a couple of years but refuse to wind down just yet.

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  5. I hit 71 a month ago, finally stopped working, totally. It’s been a bit weird I must say. Started working when I was about 5 on my stepdad’s farm, milking cows or at least attempting to. Never really stopped, and now it’s really strange. I lost seven people I knew quite well, not just to dying but some to dementia and other diseases. That was a wake-up call big time. I have a huge house and beautiful gardens that need tending to. Sometimes I just read a book. Guilt is not even given a thought. Other days, the motorcycle is a great option. They say that a man’s life here in Canada ends somewhere close to 80, maybe add or subtract a year or two. Anyway, the end is closing fast.

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    1. Bob: I recently noticed that the average lifespan in Canada is a hair higher than in the United States, 80 instead of 79, and five years above Mexico’s 75. I envy you the motorcycle. As an old biker myself, I am constantly dreaming of buying another one. Were I not in Mexico, which is full of potholes and lunatics behind steering wheels, plus some other aspects (like I’m having too good a time and want to keep it that way), I very likely would buy a new one.

      I know you’re thinking of a Havana trip. Watch out for those communists. I’m hoping the visit will steer your politics a little more toward a rightward drift.

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  6. Riding is a culture unto its own, and you never forget the feeling. I had to make a trip last week to our interior for an anniversary of a fellow soldier. Vernon was the town. It is where the very start of the desert that drifts its way all the way down to Mexico begins. I took the car because the kids all wanted fruit. I hated just about every mile I drove, so would have much preferred the bike.

    As for Cuba, I want to see the heritage, having spent a lifetime hearing about the place, I just want to see it for myself. I have a friend from Puerto Rico, I have that on my list as well.

    As for the politics, and if life permits it, maybe one day we can discuss viewpoints over a coffee. Socialistic principles are far different from communistic ideology, and I think you know that, but being the Old Rooster that you are, you like to kick up the dust wherever and whenever possible. If I have a life position and a principle I try to live by, it is this. I believe, for me, I try to give more than I take in everything I do. Especially in my young fighting career, being the taker was never a pleasant experience. Much more fun to be the giver. On the serious side, I think a lot of Canadians are like-minded, we just don`t talk about it much.

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  7. Lawns are a bane. When I bought my house, there was nearly an eighth of an acre of lawn and little else. Over the years, I’ve whittled the lawn down to about 350 square feet, which is manageable. But the rest of it, even planted almost all with perennials, is still a lot to take care of.

    So I fantasize about a Mexican house (or penthouse) with perhaps a patio, and a fabulous roof deck with a view. There I could grow a few things in pots and leave it at that. I spend far too much time these days taking care of my garden and elderly (99 yr old) house.

    So I think you’re on the right track. Life is too short to spend too much of it on yard work.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where the upside of winter is zero yard work.

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      1. One of the ways I cut back on my gardening was to build a large, gravel patio next to the garage. That’s about 400 square feet that now only needs the occasional raking.

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  8. Lawn and garden never meant anything to me but a nuisance. The last place I lived in the US had an acre of front lawn, which I deplored and cursed. And now oddly enough, my lawn and garden are my pride and joy. I would have a hard time imagining what it would be to live without either. For the first time in my life, I actually like the smell of freshly cut grass. My dog demands a lawn. But then I never have mowed a lawn in my life.

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    1. Ms. Shoes: If I am not mistaken, you have hired help. And you’ve never mowed. These things are important. I am now taking a more positive attitude to the greenery, which reminds me. I have to water the plants on the downstairs terraza today.

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  9. It looks like you are having another case of the birthday blues. Learning to delegate is a sign of wisdom. My front yard has ferns and flowering hibiscus in fancy pots and my avocado orchard in back has no lawn to mow. When the
    weeds get knee high I pay someone to cut them down and rake the leaves which fall all year long. The avocados are already large enough to eat. The trees provide lots of shade which helps keep the house cool and provide a tranquil view from my office window.

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    1. Andrés: At some point, a high point, birthdays cannot be seen as a positive thing. Actually, I cannot think of a really positive one since I turned old enough to drink. It was all downhill from there.

      I would like a nice avocado tree instead of the two pear trees, the peach tree and the sour orange. And my wife wants a fig.

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