When the dogs discovered something barkworthy last night and woke me up I knew I had been really tired when I went sleep; it was ten O’clock when they started barking. I figured I would never get back to sleep but something else cranked them up and suddenly it was two in the morning. Oh, full moon, that explains it. When the dogs can see outside at night they presume there is something to see. They are rarely right and even when they are it isn’t worth waking me up about. But I did wake up on my own about five. If I don’t start mowing as soon as it’s light it’s going to be very hot, very dry, and very dusty.
It’s hard to believe back in March we had a foot of rain. We’ve had less than half that since then and none to speak off in a week or so. But the grass is still too high so I must decapitate it all. At the sound of the mower’s engine Tanya the Destroyer attacks one of the wheels. I have to chase her away with a stick but now I must always carry a stick when I mow. Tanya is an odd little beast and I cannot have her near the mower when it is cranked up.
At seven in the morning there is precious little dew and far too much dust. The sandy soil of this region produces a fine dust that penetrates and adheres. I create a cloud of dust behind me as I mow like an internal combustion replication of Pigpen, the Peanuts character. The good news is that I have some of the thickest grass knocked down before the sun begins to scorch the already dry yard. The cloud becomes larger as the sun’s heat begins to drench the yard in dryness. I can feel sweat beginning to creep down my back, down my face and rivers run down my legs. A thin layer of dust settles on my lips and I know better than t lick them. Even the gnats abandon me in the lawn care Dust Bowl I have created.
It’s getting hot, but mostly it’s an odd combination of wet air and dry earth. Does that seem right to you? The humidity is making the morning breeze seem like the inside of a dead dragon’s mouth; warm, sticky, and fetid. This isn’t the same fresh crisp feeling of early October or late March but rather the beginning of the long slog of Summer. There will be humidity. It’s not the heat it’s the humidity. It’s a skipping record, if you still remember what that means, that will echo until somewhere towards the latter part of September. One hundred and ten days away, relief sits like a mirage on the desert floor.
The only good thing about mowing, which I have hated since I was a kid, is that it is mindless work. I can think of plots to stories and there’s a sci fi story in my head that keeps popping up. Aliens invade earth but they aren’t here with peace and laurels and technology. And they aren’t the kind that heroic humans are going to have some epic battle with and be proved victorious. No, these are move-in- and- take- over-and-kill- a- lot- of- people aliens and they are so far advanced it’s over before it even begins. The survivors are forced into increasingly smaller areas, like the grass being mowed down, and as the aliens take more and more the humans are forced to fight one another for each small group to survive, even though they know it’s wrong.
You have to remember that included in Custer’s Last Stand, were a handful of Native American scouts. How do you think they felt leading an American army against Native People? They had to feel some sort of kinship with the Sioux but there they were. At that point in time there really was no hope for any sort of resistance to American invasion but those who were left had to either get on the payroll or try to fight back. Do you think you would be any different? Do you think if you were taken up in an alien spacecraft and shown that most of the humans on earth were already dead, most of the cities totally gone, and not one alien harmed during all of this that you wouldn’t try to find a way to save you and yours, even if it meant that some other group of humans might be wiped out? Everyone comes out of a movie theater after watching “Independence Day” feeling like they would have been one of those guys knockin’em out of the sky but the reality of an invasion from space would look a lot more like the Native American fight during the late 1800’s if not a whole lot worse.
The plot forms as the grass ends all real organized resistance to the spinning blade. They have the blade outnumbered millions to one but the blade has technology and the wheel. Odd bands of grass crowd around in corners and edges, waiting for their chance to spring back into the yard, tall and proud but the weedeater is going to appear out of nowhere and end it, once and for at least a week. This will be the last time I mow before June, which is tomorrow, and after that, once a week, for at least three and a half months, so that’s about fifteen more times of doing this. Wow! So much to look forward to in the Summer!
The engine chokes and dies as I release the handle and the yard is tamed again. I can feel a thin layer of grit all over me and there is still a cloud of dust hovering over the mass slaughter of thousands of blade via the blade. The irony of blades of grass murdered by a blade is not lost on me. In a way, I mourn the loss of the wildness of this area even as I participate in keeping it civilized.
As I push the mower back into the shed I realize that I, too, have led Custer west.