A while back, it was pointed out to me that local residents, mostly here in the Valley, had this obsession about keeping the grass cut. I developed a number of theories on why that’s so since I was made aware of the phenomenon. I will enumerate them for clarity. I call it Lawn Order.
– Keeping Up with the Jones (or whoever they might be). It’s a natural compulsion to look as good as the next-door neighbor, so if he mows his lawn, so should you. Besides, the neighbors might be watching.
– The Disorder of Nature. Nature is an untidy business. It sprawls all over the place and seems to have no restraints to keep it in check. It throws out burdocks and pokeweed and crabgrass without any hesitation, so it must be managed. What better way to manage Nature than to keep one’s lawn neat and manicured?
– The Rule of Internal Combustion. I notice a certain fascination in people in the working of devices that rely on the internal combustion engine. This includes lawn mowers, lawn tractors, weed whackers, hedge trimmers and leaf blowers (these however are connected to a cord and use electricity) and so forth. The arrival of summer is always accompanied by the roar, buzz, snarl, drone and purr of a Tecumseh, Briggs and Stratton, Kohler or other engines of that ilk. Ah, the sounds of summer.
– Riding the Range. There’s only so much Earth a person can command, and what better perch in order to be master of all one surveys than on a lawn tractor. After all, Americans are all cowboy at heart, and ya gotta corral that grass pronto.
– The Farmer in Us. This one if probably a combination of a little of each of the above, like picking through a menu at a Chinese restaurant. Farmers work with the season and are compelled to perform certain tasks by the seasons. Few people in the St. John Valley are more than a generation or two removed from being in a farming family. Some are still farming people. They’re called farmers. I don’t believe there ever was such a thing as an ‘agricultural producer’. They’re called farmers, period.
I’m certain there are other manifestations of the rules I’ve listed above, nor do I exempt myself from some of them. Strange feelings come over me when, say, seeing a good field of hay going to waste. The compulsion is to believe it should be cut somehow and put to better use, though I tend to think that’s Item 5 on the menu. And I think I’m entitled to comment on these things. Half of me is Labrie. If anybody’s got farmer in ’em, it’s a Labrie.
While I don’t believe in reincarnation, if it did exist, I’d hope to come back as an Irish farmer. I just like the thought. I’d raise barley and sheep and own a small tractor, much like the one I already drive. It has a bush hog attachment that satisfies Items 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Lawn Order.
There’s just something primal to me about being an Irish farmer. Maybe it’s the accent. Maybe it’s the sound of Gaelic. Maybe it’s just sitting on a tractor in a small field in Ireland and that’s all of the Earth one needs.
I don’t think the Irish mow their lawns. That’s the sheep’s job.
Dave Wylie’s life and work experience runs the gamut from newspaper editor to carpenter to grant writer to boat builder with lots of other work wedged in-between. Wylie currently is president of a management company that oversees an elderly housing complex and president of the local historical society. He resides in Madawaska.