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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Before You Go: ‘Yard Fun’

It's time to get outside and get busy in the yard, and that worries columnist John Gray.

It’s time to get outside and get busy in the yard, and that worries me. Yard work and I go together like ice cream and gravy. Every year, without fail, something goes wrong in the yard that leads to sleepless nights, physical pain and endless trips to the hardware store.

I’ll never forget the time I walked through the yard and noticed little mounds of dirt everywhere. It looked like the grass had ‘burped’ up soil. I stood there scratching my head, when my neighbor standing at the fence line, pointed and yelled, “Trolls!” The color ran from my face as I turned to him and said, “You’re telling me I have a race of fearsome creatures of Nordic descent living in my yard? Do you think they’re online? It’d be so cool to ‘friend’ one on Facebook.”

“Not trolls you moron, moles. You have moles.” Ohhhhh moles. Well that’s not as bad as trolls. Although it would be cool to yell at people. “Yeah, keep walking. You look at my house again and I’ll sick my troll on ya.”

Still, moles were not good nor were they easy to get rid of as I soon found out. They chewed up my lawn while looking for grubs. If you don’t know what those are, they’re like a small white worm with creepy legs and if I gave you $100 to eat just one, you wouldn’t do it, trust me. By the way guys, don’t go online and ‘Google’ an image of one because the first thing that comes up is Jamie Grubbs, one of Tiger Wood’s mistresses, and then your wife walks in and you say, “It’s not how it looks. I’m looking for bugs, not hot girls.” Now you and Tiger are both sleeping on the couch.

Anyway, to get rid of the grubs, they suggested I sprinkle some smelly powder on the lawn, water it, and wait. I did. If the grubs were gone, the mole was not.

Next suggestion: some kind of toxic smoke bomb that I light and toss into one of the mole holes. Having seen every single war movie made since 1970, when I threw the bomb in I yelled out to my neighbors, “FIRE IN THE HOLE!” Most of them shook their heads like I was a whack job and walked away. Instead of killing the mole, I’m pretty sure the smoke got them ‘high.’ I saw one mole eating a bag of Cheetos after. (Okay, I made that part up, but you laughed, didn’t you?).

After everything failed, the guy at the hardware store went to what George Bush would call the ‘nuke-u-ler’ option. It was a huge steel trap that I’d place at the entrance of a hole, and snap the mole’s neck when he poked it out. If this is starting to sound a lot like “Caddyshack”, I’m right there with you. I looked at the size of the thing and said, “That’s not a trap, it’s a lawsuit.” My neighbor’s cat wanders over or God forbid one of my trolls…you get the picture. So I gave up and said, “The moles win. They can wreck the lawn.”

That Sunday morning while sipping coffee, I heard rustling outside the window. It was the infamous mole. I grabbed my shovel, snuck around the house, inched closer, closer, raised the weapon over my head to strike, and that’s when I saw it. The mole, Mrs. Mole and the whole freaking Brady Bunch mole family. Ugly little buggers, I’ll tell you that. But a family just the same, trying to make ends meet in a tough economy.

Have you priced grubs lately? Outrageous. I dropped the shovel and went back inside. I was so touched by the experience. Do you know what I named my next child? No, not MOLE you idiot. Jackson. You think I want the kid in therapy the rest of his life?

Rodents aren’t my only problem in the yard. Every single year, without fail, I get stung by a bee. The worst I ever got it was when I ran over a hornets’ nest with the lawnmower. ‘Ticked’ doesn’t begin to describe their mood. Why, they were as mad as a… something. I can’t think of the word. I let go of the mower and was running across the yard screaming and flailing my arms. There was music playing so the woman jogging by must have thought, ‘Boy, that TV guy sure can’t dance.’

I’ve had no luck with mailboxes either. I live on a busy road, and when I bought the house, I ripped down the cheap, flimsy box, and spent $150 on the nicest one they had at Lowes. It was about as big as some apartments I’ve lived in, I swear.

The guy across the street smiled and said, “Don’t do it. Plows gonna get it next winter.” I ignored him. First good snowfall, WHAP, a snow bank the size of Detroit got pushed right into it. I’m still finding pieces of it three years later. I have a stone wall. That fell down. Didn’t know 80-pound stones could shift, but they did. The gutters on the house actually have a small tree growing out of them. I didn’t know that was even possible. Can’t get a plant in my kitchen to stay alive despite love, water and plant food, but the gutter has a burgeoning forest taking root. And don’t get me started on the flowers. The ones that cost a buck, you can’t kill with a shotgun, but anything expensive and pretty; just look at it cross-eyed and they keel over.

Oh, and since we’re out in the yard today, can we all just agree to stop calling those things hanging from the tree ‘bird feeders.’ I feel like I’m running a Denny’s for every squirrel in the neighborhood.

So do I hate yard work? Not one bit. Despite the thieving rodents and dying flowers, bees that sting and walls that fall, there is that moment every homeowner cherishes. After a day of weeds, watering and wondering if the work is all worth it, you walk to the end of the driveway, step back into the road, and get hit.

Kidding. You look at your property, getting the view the rest of the world sees, and something wells up inside. No, it’s not the Taco Bell you ate earlier. It’s good old-fashioned, blue collar pride. Doesn’t matter what zip code you live in, be it a 20-room mansion or a one-bedroom bungalow, the feeling is the same. Good for you.

So, have fun in the yard this summer, and if it appears the squirrels are secretly plotting against you. Trust me, they are.

John Gray
John Gray
John Gray is an Emmy-winning journalist and writer. In addition to his 32 years of television experience, John is the author of three children's books and two novels. He is married with three children. He and his lovely wife Courtney have five dogs, three of them are rescues with special needs. They make their quiet home in Rensselaer County.

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