Jessie Veeder, Published June 29 2012
Veeder: Sometimes mind wanders to city living
While men and women in suburbs and cities all over the country are firing up their lawnmowers and weed eaters to get after little pieces of grass sprouting up along their sidewalks, I’m out in in my short-shorts and pasty skin pushing an old mower over thick grass and weeds in an attempt at a well-groomed lawn in the middle of a wild place.
It’s not an easy task. I mean, we live in a barnyard filled with barbed wire, fence posts and the occasional cow or two. And pickups and machinery don’t make the best lawn ornaments no matter how many pots of geraniums I set on them.
Neither do cow plops.
I have to admit that on days I wake up to find that the grass has grown 12 feet overnight and I’m shoving that lawnmower over the graveyard of sticks the dogs drug home, sending one of them flying into our pickup before shocking the blades of the mower on a rogue chunk of scoria, I dream a little dream of apartment living.
And when I push that mower over a hidden cow pie, I wonder why I attempt this chore at all.
Martha Stewart herself couldn’t save this mess.
When I was growing up out here in the middle of cow pastures and alfalfa fields, the lawn was my responsibility. I was all arms and elbows, pushing that machine over molehills and around the chokecherry bushes in an attempt to ensure the neighbors could find the house when they came over for coffee.
I enjoyed the chore on sunny summer days because it meant I could pull on my shorts and swimming suit top and let the sun brown my skin. And because our lawn is a good 30 miles away from civilization, I didn’t have to worry about what the world thought of my landscaping uniform.
But when I grew up and moved to town, I liked to tease the neighbors who never let their grass grow higher than the soles of their shoes before they clipped it down again. As I listened to the hum of the mower on the other side of the chain-link fence, I didn’t understand that perhaps the chore was less about a perfect lawn and more about the chance it gave them to connect with their own little piece of nature between sidewalks and stoplights.
Maybe the sound of the mower and the smell of fresh-cut grass made me feel closer to home, too.
Sometimes when I’m driving down city streets I imagine what our life would be like if we chose the white picket fence instead of barbed wire. I imagine my husband grilling on our deck wearing khaki shorts instead of Wranglers. I see a version of myself carrying grocery bags from the store down the street in my high heels. I picture us as a family behind those windows, encouraging our children to go outside and ride their bikes along the sidewalks while we sit on our front porch watching the cars roll by.
It would be a good life – one that sounds pretty enticing on the days when we run out of milk for our cereal and a quick trip down the block to the grocery store is not an option – but it wouldn’t be our life.
When we planted ourselves back on the ranch, we knowingly replaced late-night Chinese food runs with a deepfreeze full of dinner options and movie-theater dates with John Wayne DVDs. We signed up for dusty pickups, muddy boots, wildflower bouquets, home-brewed coffee, an occasional wood tick crawling across the kitchen floor and cow poop in the yard.
And although my landscaping ritual involves mowing around a parked tractor and dodging scoria flying toward my exposed shins, at least I can do it with my scrawny white arms and legs glowing in the sweet sunshine without traumatizing the neighbors.
And I think we can all agree, country or city living, there’s nothing like the smell of fresh-cut grass.
Jessie Veeder is a 28-year-old musician and writer. She lives near Watford City, N.D., with her husband, on the ranch where she grew up.