Lawn Care

Well, another summer has come and gone. And once more I've succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. I have yet again avoided one of the most oppressive obligations of home ownership. Not for me the spring visits to Home Depot for bags of mulch and fertilizer. Not for me the consultation with the expert from Scotts Miracle Grow and the reams of pamphlets and manuals that instruct on the care and maintenance of a perfect lawn. No John Deere tractor. No spreaders. No trimmers. None of that for me. And I owe it all to the man from Lawn Doctor.

Many years ago the Mrs. and I moved back to New Haven. We looked for a house. We found one in Westville. It was more than big enough for our then-small family and would remain so as we grew. We were ingénues. We didn't know from home buying, from traffic patterns, from granite counter tops or attic fans or central air conditioning. Mrs. Dow comes from Southern Indiana where surviving summer humidity is a regional sport and I thought the electric fan was one of the greatest inventions of the Twentieth Century.

And lawns. Who knew from lawns? It wasn't until after we moved in that we realized that our backyard was half the size of our neighbors because the previous owner had sold it off to the folks who lived behind us. Nor did we realize that the huge tree that covered the minuscule area that was left could pose problems. We looked around. We realized our neighbors had grass. Lots of it. And they spent a good deal of time tending to it. And it looked terrific.

Then we looked at our yard. There was almost no grass. So year one, we tried to address this significant deficit. Off to the local garden shop. Grass seed. Lots of it. Hoses. Sprinklers. The kind with a bent pipe with lots of holes that went forward and back in a wide arc drenching everything in sight and assured the New Haven Water Company another profitable year. Nothing. We gazed upon a mudhole. We were embarrassed. We stayed in the house, ashamed to show ourselves to our neighbors.

Year two was worse. More seed. Fertilizer this time. A new sprinkler, this one went in a semicircle, made funny noises and increased our water bill even more. This time we were even more attentive. Some whirling gewgaws to keep the birds away. Still no grass.

Year three, surrender. We call in the professionals. An appointment is made. The man from Lawn Doctor arrives. We direct him to the postage stamp area in back. He surveys the scene, takes a drag on his cigarette and begins to measure the area with one of those wheel things they use to calculate distances in auto accidents. Front to back. Another drag on his cigarette. He totals the distance. Side to side. Another drag. Another total. He multiplies. He calculates. We await his sage advice with apprehension. Surely he would deliver a solution that would allow us to hold our heads high. A different kind of seed, perhaps? Maybe a special sod designed for especially difficult spots?

He looked up at the spreading branches of the tree that completely covered the yard in shade, took a long, last drag on his cigarette, and delivered the one word that solved our lawn care problems forever: "Astroturf." Now this was a man who made his living out of selling grass. If he couldn't put grass on that yard, no one could. And neither did we.

Now, some thirty years later our back yard is covered with a wooden deck the expanse of which rivals the landing area on the USS Enterprise. I've got a place to read the Times on summer Sundays; every possum, raccoon and stray cat within a twenty mile area has a place to hide underneath; and if Amarante's Seacliff is booked we may be able to squeeze in a wedding reception.

And thanks to the man from Lawn Doctor, I still don't own