April 2010 Issue

Onward, ready or not.  I try to look forward to the coming of Spring, I really do.  But I think it’d be a lot easier to do so in New York City.  Last week I noticed that (a) our neighbors had apparently been mowing their lawns for a couple of weeks (maybe since January, who pays attention to that stuff?), and (b) our lawn was starting to look more than just a bit feral, like maybe there could be wolverines lurking in there.  Snakes, definitely.  Plus which Pokie would wander out there and get lost.  Of course, Pokie wanders into the living room and gets lost, but this was worse, because she’s both deaf and demented, so even if you spot Pokie and call really loud and wave your hands, she looks at you like she’s never seen you before and goes right back to licking the tree.  Pokie likes to lick trees.  Pokie also likes to lick the gravel in the driveway.  And the rug in the living room.  For hours on end.

Anyway, it was about his time that our neighbor stopped by and asked if I needed help fixing My Little Tractor.  This is about as subtle as it gets around here, but I was sharp that day and caught his drift.  So a couple of days later I pried the garage door open and fired up the beast, or tried to, but the battery was dead.  Rats.  Well, maybe next year, eh?

Pushing my luck, I tried again later that afternoon, and the damn thing started right up.  But I had virtually no gas, so I turned it off and went downtown.  After I filled it up upon my return, I discovered that the front left tire was flat.  Jeez louise.  So I pumped it up (having fruitlessly tried to patch it last year), and finally I was good to go, at least for an hour or two until the tire went flat again.  Vroom vroom, I piloted My Little Tractor onto the side yard and began to mow.

Ten seconds and fifteen feet later, the mowing deck emitted an ear-splitting screech and the whole tractor ground to a halt.  Dismounting, I began crawling through the unmown grass, rather like a large, clumsy reptile, peering under the mowing deck and muttering under my breath. Eventually I realized that I had, in a moment of colossal stupidity, mowed over a length of steel cable we use to tether Pokie to a tree when we can’t take any more of that damn licking sound.  Said cable was now wrapped tightly around the spindles of all three blades under the deck.  About the time I figured this out, I noticed the shoes of our helpful neighbor planted at my eye level, about three feet away.  He had arrived to offer his help, which, rising as best I could from the ground, I politely declined while striving to project a Chuck Norris air of confidence (“No problem, I’ll just put ‘er up on the rack and untangle it!”). Even I could tell I was coming across more like an over-caffeinated Wally Cox.

Yes, I know I’m incredibly lucky to have such a nice neighbor.  But every time I let him help me with the tractor I feel like an idiot.  I’ve been mowing this misbegotten patch of swamp for twelve years come this summer, and I shouldn’t be mowing over dog cables.

I then spent the next 90 minutes lying on the driveway wrestling with that stupid cable, which had apparently been designed to be impervious not only to the teeth of elderly dogs but to every wire-cutter I owned.  And when I say “lying in the driveway,” I mean literally with my head resting in gravel and dirt.

I did finally untangle the mess without un-mounting the entire mowing deck, which would have involved cotter pins and belts and been a major PITA, so I was rather pleased with myself when I finally climbed back into the saddle and roared off again to do battle with the evil grass.  Fortunately, about an hour later it got dark enough to make mowing difficult, so I had to knock off and go watch TV.  Only about a quarter of the lawn is mowed, but it’s the part most visible from the road, and I plan to get back to it right away, next week at the latest.

Elsewhere in Nature News, there’s a persistent urban legend that says that bumblebees, judged by technical aerodynamic principles, should not possibly be able to fly.  Too heavy, wings too short, and so on.  But fly they do, sort of like this website (gotcha).  In our case, we make up for our stubby little wings with your subscriptions, those nutritious little nuggets of moolah (a mere 15 clams per year) that make it possible for us, if, perhaps, not actually to fly, at least to make a really loud humming sound.  So please subscribe.

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