*Somerset, PA Daily American, March 20, 2010
Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
In the last couple weeks, temperatures have rebounded and the visible legacy of the Long Winter is finally in retreat. Slowly, the piles of white have shrunk, revealing for the first time in five months, the crushed and shriveled remnants of my lawn. As pitiful as the grass looks, after months of endless snow, it’s still good to see.
I’m also finding out that the ebbing of winter’s coat is revealing other things as well. Last week, I found a newspaper that had been delivered during a blizzard back in early February. Surprisingly, it was still perfectly dry, preserved by a double-wrap of plastic bags. One of our hand shears also made an appearance, rusted beyond use, lying at the base of a rose bush I had been trimming late last fall. But the most astonishing item (and potentially the most embarrassing) rose like a Phoenix out of a snowdrift two weeks ago.
When I was preparing to do the final cut last fall, the confounded thing refused to start. I yanked on the pull rope until my shoulder ached, but no go. I really wasn’t surprised, after all it was 15 years old and had been on its last legs for some time. The engine blew smoke, the wheels wobbled, and it had acquired an amount of baling wire and duct tape in a vain effort to keep things attached and functional. Despite its long and rugged service, I still felt betrayed enough to exile the cantankerous machine outside the garage.
As most men know, the garage is the temple of useful stuff. Machines and devices that work are given a place of honor alongside my SUV and motorcycle. Here, they are protected from the elements and preserved in a (near) pristine condition. But this idolic treatment is fickle. The moment it refuses to work when I want to (admittedly a less-than frequent moment), the offending device is removed from its place of sanctity.
As far as the mower was concerned, I had fully intended to get it repaired, but time got away from me. Plus, I decided to hire a teenager, an industrious lad named Elliot, to mow the lawn for me. This decision was borne out of some increasingly bothersome physical ailments and a decreasingly amount of available time. But I have to tell you that watching this energetic and entrepreneurial young man swiftly and expertly tend to my grass was a liberating experience. I had produced a job for someone who truly wanted one, thereby aiding an ailing economy in a small way, and also relieved myself of an increasingly problematic task.
Still, that list of facts and rationalizations didn’t keep me from a twinge of conscience as I happened to look out the window on the day that the mower’s handle appeared out of the snow. It might have been repairable last fall, but after spending the winter in a snow drift, I fear it is beyond resurrection.
Sometime soon, I’ll park the mower by the street with a telling sign, “Doesn’t run. Free.” I’m sure there lives in Somerset County a small-engine magician who can bring it back to life. But for that machine and me, the betrayal is complete; the divorce is final.
And I won’t be asking for visitation rights.