The start of the season


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The start of the season
By Bobby Neal Winters

I was listening to some of the fellows over lunch last Tuesday at Rotary. These guys were accountants, stockbrokers, and bankers and have sort of entered into post traumatic stress after April 15. Or maybe they’ve just been watching Bush’s approval ratings. One of them was really depressed and was talking about treating his lawn with Roundup. I was shocked at the depth of his depression; I’ve despaired over my lawn before, but I’ve never thought of wiping it out with a herbicide. It was positively Biblical.

But I listen further, however, and it was only a portion of his lawn that he wanted to kill. I told him I had a dog that would do that for him, but he refused the offer. All of this to say that, among some men, lawns occupy a place usually reserved for religion.

There are those of us who have given up hope of heaven through either faith or works and are hoping that God will look kindly upon a good lawn. There is something that is just Godly about a well-trimmed lawn with all of the grass nice and even.

All of this nice even grass doesn’t just happen by accident. It requires planning, ingenuity, and precisely engineered equipment. I was having a discussion about this the other day with Bobby of Frontenac. I like talking with Bobby because I can remember his name.

There is a hierarchy within the realm of lawn care, a priesthood if you will, and each of us aspires to some spot within it. In religion, I am a Lay Preacher which is fairly low on the totem pole as far as any priesthood goes. There is a similar order among those who aspire to the Noble Order of the Well-groomed Lawn.

As far as the Noble Order of the Well-groomed Lawn, I am barely sitting in a pew, but Bobby of Frontenac is practically a Bishop, maybe even a Cardinal.

I say this all without even having seen his lawn simply by power of the fact he told me he mowed with a zero-turn radius riding lawnmower. When a man has that sort of equipment, the lawn has to be good.

After I’d preached him a sermon—it was about sin and I was against it again—he returned me the favor by helping me with an important decision.

At the end of last season, I had a mishap with my mower. By a means that was mysterious to me at the time and has grown no clearer with the passing of time, the wire that runs from the throttle to the dead man switch became stretched. The effect of this was to put what I call a sine-wave into the normal rhythm of the mowers running. Instead of going put-put-put in endless repetition the put-put-puts gradually grew quieter until almost dying and then gradually louder until it almost sounded normal. I could still mow, but it used too much gas and I had to make sure to mow through the big clumps when it was on the high end of the sine-wave.

I tried to fiddle with it, but none of my ministrations were able to make it better. If it had been a horse, I would have shot it. Heck, I felt like shooting it anyway, but I was stymied even there. I managed to make it through the first two mowings of the year, but only because the drought was so bad mowing was an empty ritual.

Then it rained, and I had to do something, so I thanked God for it, and asked Bobby for his opinion.

My problem was that I had gone to Wal-Mart and had seen their stairway of mowers. They start you off at the cleverly price 99.98 model and take you up in twenty-dollar increments to a Mercury Grand Marquis. My natural predilections pull me in the direction of the 99.98 model because every time I’ve sought to go above that level has ended in disaster. Bobby, however, told me to take a step up.

“Those 3-point-5 horsepower mowers just don’t have the power that a man with a lawn like yours need,” he said with a wisdom that was awe-inspiring. “You need to go up to a 4-point-5 or maybe even a 5-point-5.”

This was amazing. He knew what I needed, and he’s never even seen my lawn. On reflection, I need not be amazed. He knew what I needed in the same way I knew he had a good lawn. I think this is something on the Y-chromosome.

Anyway, I followed his advice and got me a Weed-Eater 4.5 HP. This is on the low end of what Bobby recommended, but that is the way my natural leanings took.

We guys just know these things.

(Bobby Winters is a Professor of Mathematics, writer, and speaker. You may contact him at or visit his website at