Saturday, August 31, 2013

Progress in America:

(2) Suburban Wildlife

    A few years ago the first warning signs of the invasion occurred.  Woken up by early morning buzzing, I tried to discover what was creating havoc outside my bedroom.  Kneeling in my altogethers to peer out the window above my bed, I saw nothing.  Unencumbered by more clothing, I stood and went to the back window where I found the culprits: a tiny army of mowers had invaded my neighbor’s back yard. 
    There they were, a small lawn tractor, accompanied by two gas burning self-propelled choppers in a skirmish with the grass.  Spewing noise and pollution worthy of a NASCAR race.  Gobbling the tops of the grass blades in his tiny backyard.  NASCAR quality – employed on a lawn that had, till recently, been mowed by my kind neighbor - a recently retired Episcopal minister.  I closed my windows and blearily looked at the time: 7:08.   Thus began my weekly wake ups on Wednesdays during the grass mowing season.  A season that I would discover would soon be extended from March through November.
    Once-a-week wake ups to mechanized fury was bad enough.  But other neighbors rushed to keep up with the friendly, unassuming minister.  Signing lawn care contracts they quickly altered my once quiet piece of the American Dream: first across the street, then behind my house and finally on the other side of my house.  All too soon I was woken up a second, third, and then a fourth day of the week: the disease became a plague. 
    Enjoying the decent exercise I got mowing my lawn with my corded electric mower I was becoming isolated and suspect - probably even targetable by the NSA or the FBI - if they are still distinct entities - as the holdout - the sole person in my corner of suburbia who doesn’t support the patriotic, emerging army of corporate lawn care. 
    Neighbors began to remark (always in the form of rhetorical questions): 
  • ‘Don’t you find the cord bothersome?’  
  • ‘Isn’t this mowing your own lawn very inefficient?’  
  • ‘Wouldn’t you prefer to be inside on such a muggy morning?’  
  • ‘Having financial problems?’  
  • ‘Are your retirement plans being ruined by the downturn?’ 
  • ‘Are you going to be foreclosed?’
     During this same historical period, biking through the neighborhood to do errands became ever more challenging.  Streets were increasingly clogged by the messengers of the growing lawn care industry.  Originally served by a couple of smaller pickups, these had to be replaced by bigger pickups to haul trailers to transport the ever fatter lawn tractors to their destinations.   Even these pickups were replaced by medium sized trucks with large cargo boxes or stake beds filled with lawn care equipment: tractors, mowers, trimmers, and such, each requiring tanks of gasoline to fuel their many-horse-powered motors. 
    Soon truly large trucks appeared.   Each filled and even sometimes hauling a large trailer as the new generations of SUV-sized lawn tractors took over the race to create the aspirations of homeowners for the more utopian lawn.  Of course, such equipment requires massive investments, and hence national franchises.  A new growth industry being born, spawning trucks with corporate names, promising a greener yard, a more perfect horticultural environment.  Trucks delivering more noise, more pollution, closing our streets, leaving the homeowner more time to push the buttons on their remotes, to sit in their Lazyboys, to fume against Obama’s handling of Katrina, and to watch NFL players knock their brains about.  Progress in America. 
    No longer able to move through the blocked streets on my bicycle I have become accepting of the country’s need to support economic growth and surveillance of the unusual.  So I am once again at ease plugging in my Black and Decker and grooming my segment of Paradise. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013


  1. Electric mower? Why not go all the way with an old fashioned push mower? Quieter, no impact on the environment except building even bigger muscles.
    Alternatively, replace your windows with triple panes, or sleep with earplugs because the leaf-blowers can't be far behind.

  2. Ahh leaf blowers v rakes. The next blog?

  3. Goats are the future or return to the past? 2 Kenyan pygmy goats and your bushes will stay trimmed also.

  4. I agree with Bob! Actually the lawn mowers don't bother me as much as the leaf blowers - both because the latter have a higher-pitched whine, and because I think (not sure why) that the leaf-blowers are more wasteful.

    I wonder how much of a difference it would make if there were a proper carbon tax? Both power-mowers and leaf-blowers would become more expensive to operate.

  5. A proper carbon tax will come to the United States when we have a President who has the ability to walk on water. I fear the link between good policy and our political process is broken for the foreseeable future.