I have a new friend. He is a turtle. I think we get along because we see ourselves in each other. Like me, he is a procrastinator. Without fail he begins his trek across the ninth fairway of my golf course only after he hears the oncoming hum of my mower. I imagine him at home with best intentions to “this time” begin his journey to the swamp before the advent of my intrusive mowing, but each time finds himself only heading out the door once it is a bit too late. He crosses the hundred or so yards that bisect my back and forth mowing in about 30 minutes; his top speed is slower than most others’ lower gears (again, a reminder of myself). I should mention that he is missing one foot, so he is cut some further slack by this superintendent. I’m sure that there must be a saying down south that ends with “slower than a three-legged turtle.”
My algebra and geometry are too long ago forgotten to form an accurate equation, but I do know that we have an agreement based in math: I can travel 250 yards down the fairway, and then 250 yards back (with maybe another 10 yards added for the turn) in the time that it takes him to traverse roughly the length of three tractor widths. This allows a safe margin of one tractor width for each pass by him. Perhaps there is a bit of pep in his step with each near-miss, but it’s about as hard to discern as the movement of a clock’s hour hand. We pass like this, every five minutes, until he disappears with surprising abruptness into the brambles that border the wetlands. I think he is relieved each time that he crosses the gauntlet successfully, but maybe instead our meeting is intentional — that it is not procrastination but loneliness that is behind his arrivals. I find comfort in his appearance. Maybe he finds the same in mine.
I began my illustrious career as a mower of Chappy grasses years ago on the lawns of my grandmother’s friends. These were less lawns perhaps than swaths of weeds growing between stumps and rocks. Decades before my arrival on Chappy, the landscape was mostly free of trees — being of a windswept sand plain nature. But then the scrub oak and pine and bittersweet moved in, and crowded out the diminutive and less aggressive wild grasses and bayberry and beach plum. Then the people arrived and attempted to reclaim some of the territory usurped by the interlopers. These days, this reclamation involves crews of workers, Labrador-sized chainsaws, industrial chippers, stump grinders and pullers, and all nature of cutting and tilling and mowing machines. Back then, however, oftentimes it was just an octogenarian with a handsaw and a pair of loppers doing the work. Occasionally there was a chainsaw on site, undersized and under-used, and many times with an electrical cord attached. I brought to the table: a 22” push mower, weed whacker and rake. Together we would attempt to carve out a marginally-mown tract of land large enough to put a bird bath and a few lawn chairs.
Some properties already had established lawns, insofar as they were more shorn grass than any other species of plant. None however had any sort of irrigation system other than a sprinkler and hose dragged from dry spot to dry spot. So I wasn’t dealing with issues of excessive lushness of grass bogging down my mower blade. Most lawns were small, but some were huge when juxtaposed against my tiny mower. The Witherwind property was my largest, I think — a three hour exercise in a continuos Sisyphus-like to and fro march to nowhere. But the monotony and the drudgery were mitigated by both the friendliness of the clients and their low expectations. Sure, I wasn’t crafting a masterpiece of a lawn whilst tooling around on a 54” zero-turn riding mower, but neither was I expected to know a heck of a lot about what I was doing. So the removal of ancient and revered ivy from a stone wall, and the carving of Farsi-like designs by an uneven mower into a lawn were largely forgiven. My most important role was more as a companion of sorts to these ladies and gents: a Pepsi with Mrs. Patterson and her remarkably loud and un-P.C. Siamese cat Charlie Chang; a discussion of the marvels of a Swedish pruning saw with Mrs. Franzen (followed by the removal of Mrs. Franzen from her perch up in an oak where the saw had become lodged in a branch); and backgammon with Mr. and Mrs. Norman and Chee Johnson were of equal importance to any weeding or cutting that I may or may not have completed. And of course there was the moving in and out of houses that I always seemed to be present for, as well the delivery of cars and boats and people to places and ports. I was the LawnKing, yes, but I was also Mary Kelly’s grandson — a nice boy.
I remember all of this now because of a note I received from Sabrina Tufts regarding her arrival back to Chappy for a few weeks with family and friends. The Tufts were one of my later clients — toward the twilight of my lawn career, but being comprised of several attractive young ladies (and a mom and dad, I guess), they were one of my favorites. I helped move them in and out of their upside-down house near Wasque a few times, and I mowed their lawn maybe a couple of dozen times only, but I remember them well. So the following information is in honor of that memory. Please do not expect the same for your clan unless they also contained a similar proportion of lovely lasses.
The McCabe family from Houston, Tex. — Elisabeth, May, Sadie and Owen — spent a remarkable and fun-filled week at the Tuft house this past Monday through Saturday. I was not present, but I’m guessing that lobsters were had, that there were a few very brief meltdowns by the children because of spiders or ticks or perceived slights at the candy store, and that those that hadn’t overindulged in their misspent youths enjoyed a cocktail or two on the deck overlooking roaring Wasque. Sabrina’s sister Amy Tufts Filoon and her daughter Sadi arrived a couple of Mondays ago as well to great fanfare and the running of the bulls through the Enos Lots. This is Sadie’s third summer on Chappy and the third generation of her family to come to Chappy. (Not bad, Sadie, but my cat is sixth generation — just saying). Best to you all. This concludes my social news obligations for the summer of ‘13.
This time of year I am very busy (lest anyone think that I am anything but industrious), but I do try to make time to get out and about so that I can report on the goings-on on Chappy. Herewith is the news to date: I think Edo Potter got a new car.
I have made a few trips to the bookstore in town (which has an exquisite coffee garden behind it now), with the main purpose being to attempt to shame neighbors into buying Melinda Fager’s book Living Off The Sea (in which I am a featured writer). Chappy people typically have no shame, though, so a different tactic may need employment.