Taking Lumps In Lawn Care


SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

            Perhaps the most interesting thing about this story is that it happened the day before my 6 year old nephew had heart surgery.

            That’s not a play for sympathy so much as an explanation of why I rarely make fun of people who suffer misfortunes, unless it’s a comedy on TV or they clearly deserve it. If I saw a video of Adolf Hitler accidentally scorch his mustache I’d laugh my butt off; for anyone else I’d have to wonder if they just got diagnosed with a fatal illness, or recently lost their job, or married Hillary Clinton. Bad stuff.

            It’s why I never much liked those funny home video shows – very few men deserve to take a rake handle to the groin.

            There is one person I’m willing to poke fun at in cases like this, and the ability to make fun of myself has kept me in columns for twenty years now. The fact that I was distracted at the time is secondary to one simple fact: If what happened to me had been on a Three Stooges movie, the whole audience would have howled.

            Later, when my attention was focused, I realized it’s not uncommon for me to brush against things when I mow the lawn: the clothesline, lilac branches, low hanging squirrels, and so on. It’s also not uncommon for me to come inside with scratches and scrapes. Since lawn mowing qualifies as home maintenance duties, that comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me.

            Most of the things I run into are in the back yard. The front yard needs more caution, because the low hanging branches there are at about head level, and thick as my thigh. Encountering them is not a matter of annoyance, but of hospitalization.

            What keeps those close calls from becoming calls is that I mow the lawn the same way, every time. I am, as I have a habit of telling people, a creature of habit. I realize now that, over the years, I’ve unconsciously learned just how close I can get to the various obstacles in my yard without actually getting impaled.

            Then, earlier this month, I decided to do it differently.

            Lawn care enthusiasts say you should change up the pattern in which you mow your lawn. Otherwise you could accidentally create a permanent race track pattern, or something – I don’t know, I never much cared about lawn care.

            Still, while I’d rather play in the grass than medicate it and sing to it, it is kind of nice to have a nice looking lawn. So I thought, what the heck: Instead of my normal square pattern, I’d do a bit of a slanted zigzag thing. Where’s the harm?

            And so, while looking down, thoughts on other matters, I approached the tree from a different –

            BAM!

            Some people say moments like this are a blur, or that they remember only the pain, or nothing at all. I remember every instant of it. First of all, let me say how very grateful I am for whoever invented that safety device that shuts off the lawn mower whenever you let go of the handle, because frankly I have no idea what happened to the mower; I found it later about six feet away, making no noise except a low snicker.

            But everything else I remember all too well. The branch stopped my head cold, even as my feet kept going for a couple of steps; this had the effect of throwing me backward head over heels. Which is a dumb expression, because it was really heels over head. My upper torso crashed to the ground and I cartwheeled over, not unlike Charlie Brown failing to kick Lucy’s football.

            It was on the edge of a steep (but not high) hill, and by rights should have rolled all the way down, across the sidewalk, and onto the street. Instead, in a way that would have been cat and/or ninja like if done on purpose, I rolled over and right onto my feet. Instead of seeing birds and stars, I saw flashes of light and heard a low ringing; my skull was a bell that got rung.

            It was seriously unpleasant.

            One of the odd things about me is that when something like this happens, I often worry more about how it looks than about whether I’m injured. Even in the midst of my gymnastics move, I took note that there was no one visible in the parking lot across the street, but a red pickup truck was just starting to pass by on the highway. There’s no way the occupants couldn’t have seen it, and I’m sure they got a big laugh and wished they had a video camera. Since they didn’t bother stopping to see if I was okay, I’m petty enough to hope a mile further on they laughed themselves right into a utility pole.

            Maybe they just couldn’t catch me: The moment I gained my footing I stumbled directly into the house and away from any witnesses. Emily was in the office and I plopped into the office chair beside her, waiting for the nausea to pass. It took her maybe two seconds to figure out I wasn’t having a good day.

            It was the place to be, because Emily knew enough first aid to handle the minor problems, and (if it had been necessary) enough common sense to call 911 even if I told her not to. She discovered I had:

            A bruise, gash, goose egg, and scrape. All of them, right on the top of my head, toward the front. I can show you the scar.

            My conclusion from this experience, you ask? Pay more attention? Be trained in first aid? Hire someone else to mow? Well, yeah. But my big conclusion is that, more than anything else, the best way to learn your lesson is very simple:

            Pour alcohol on it.
 
            That’s when the experience became truly unforgettable.