The heat is on; the lawn is long

Theunis Wessels mows his lawn while a tornado passes by. PHOTO: Cecilia Wessls via Twitter

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Last week a viral online image showed a man in Alberta, Canada mowing his lawn as a sizable tornado spun across the sprawling horizon behind him.

“I was keeping an eye on it,” said Theunis Wessels of Three Hills, a small town on the Alberta plains. Though the picture made the tornado look close, it was actually more than a mile away and quickly dissipated.

In fact, wife Cecelia Wessels took the picture simply to show relatives in South Africa that they get a lot of tornados there. She didn’t even notice her husband mowing through the frame. Again, they get lot of tornadoes.

I know how this happens. When you’ve got one day to mow your lawn, you better dang well mow that lawn. A little rain. A little heat. Tornado. These are just excuses.

Townies, I can’t speak for you. People who live in town are subject to social pressure, even public shame, when it comes to lawn mowing. Most can mow their lawn in less than an hour. So, they fill out their time primping and conditioning their lawn like it was a French poodle named Cosette. I no longer understand this world.

Me, I live in the country. My yard is cut into a forest like the gap remaining after removing a gooey brownie from the center of the pan. We don’t *have* to mow our lawn. No one would know, except for the all-seeing eye of Google satellites. Nevertheless, I’ve learned that the forest will take back what rightly belongs to her.

A couple lazy Sundays in a row and maple saplings claim the septic field. Each June day in which I fail to mow the lawn allows an exponential increase in the size of the critters hiding in the grass.

Day 15: bears.

I have to ask myself: am I making life easier or harder for ticks to suckle on the blood of my family? In the choice between physical labor and ticks, I choose labor. Most do.

Mowing the lawn becomes the modern equivalent of rousting claim jumpers off the property. Shaving a big green face, or — if you prefer — arm pit. Sometimes it feels like I’m tossing the cells of a giant black fly prison. Attica! Attica!

Just like dieting or exercise, our human brain generates all manner of rationalization to prevent one from mowing the lawn. Another cup of coffee would taste pretty good. Better call my friend. Oh, I really should write a column about mowing my lawn. That’s important.

In fact, mowing the lawn becomes a brutish interlude in an over-scheduled, over-stimulated world. My phone’s buzzing. The kid has practice at 5. Stack of papers on my desk. I guess it’s time to drive a tiny car that spins sharp steel blades in a symmetrical pattern around my house.

You don’t have to mow the lawn. You could hire it done. I suppose you could just replace your yard with rocks and old cars. Residents of Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range could publish a thick, glossy magazine on that concept alone. But a yard like that is more than a landscaping motif. It’s a lifestyle choice that few have the alcohol tolerance to employ.

So, we mow. No matter what. No matter when. We leave our mark on the world, only to watch nature paper it over in a single breath of life. So goes the struggle of Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill. So goes being a human.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, today is my only day to mow the lawn. The forecast calls for rain in 90 minutes. If I don’t get it done I’m in real trouble. Let me just pull the ignition on the mower.

PUTT PUTT PUTT sspppppttt.

Son of a …

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, June 11, 2017 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


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