How important is the lawn in the grand scheme of things?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 19:00
Frank Baker’s lawn.

After thatching and raking, with a glorious summer of sunshine and repeated rounds of fertilizer, lime and water, with special application of “Weed-Be-Gone” to eliminate invasive culprits, plus frequent mowing and trimming, my lawn still doesn’t look as good as some of my neighbors. But I keep trying.

Some would pose the simple question: “Why?”

It reminded me of a President Reagan radio broadcast. It was one of his last in 1979, in which he borrowed from an editorial by columnist Erma Bombeck entitled, “Yard of Life.” In the broadcast he described a frustrated father who tried in earnest to grow a nice lawn as his young son and friends seemed hell bent on its destruction.

At the age of three his son wanted a sandbox and despite the father’s protestations that it would destroy the lawn, he built it for the boy. “Don’t worry,” the man’s wife comforted him. “It will grow back.”

When the son was five years old he wanted a Jungle Jim, and the father knew it would leave a big, brown hole in the middle of the yard. But reluctantly, he installed the equipment. Again, his wife assured him that the grass would grow back.

As the boy got older there were tent camp outs in the back yard, plastic swimming pools during hot summers, and a basketball hoop above the yard alongside the garage. By this time there were more spots of brown earth than grass, and the exasperated father shook his head in disgust.

“I know what you’re going to say,” he opined to his wife. “It will grow back.”

One summer the man’s yard was like a green velvet carpet on all sides of the house---the kind of yard that wins Chamber of Commerce beautification awards. But the man didn’t seem to notice. He looked out beyond the verdant lawn to the empty street, peering into the distance as if he were waiting for something. He looked over to his wife, and said: “He’ll come back, won’t he?”

That program took me back to my experiences with dogs and lawns. I once owned a Belgian Shepard named “Beauty” that liked to dig holes in the yard. The dog was highly intelligent, but no amount of persuading or discipline could deter her from these excavations.

I had a Newfoundland named “Charlie,” who was as dedicated to destroying my lawn as the boy in the “Yard of Life” story. We tried mixing formulas into his food that would make his urine less acidic, hosing down the areas immediately after he went, applying special chemicals to the spots, but nothing worked. Mowing didn’t take any time at all, because our back yard lawn was pocked with round, brown, dead patches that looked like moon craters.

Today, I have a rather nice lawn and we’ve built an enclosure in the back that prevents our Beagle from doing any grass damage. And even though we have no fence, we’re fortunate that neighborhood dogs don’t wander into our yard very often.

“Beauty” and ”Charlie” passed on many years ago, but I still miss them very much. No matter what natural or unnatural events wreak havoc on my lawn, I can always get it to come back. My old canine friends are gone forever.


Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer and columnist who lives in Eagle River. His column appears weekly in the Star. To contact Frank, email [email protected]

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