When a 2×4 is No Longer a 2×4 – Living Life by the Lowest Common Denominator

Lowes-Home-Improvement-Store

There was a small news story recently that went largely unnoticed across the country.  Home improvement retailer Lowes lost a $1.6 million lawsuit in Kalifornia (see what I did there?) for its the labeling of building products, specifically, dimensional lumber.

A Superior Court judge laid out terms by which the retailer must advertise its 2x4s and other dimensional materials in response to a civil “consumer protection” action. Judge Paul M. Haakenson, handed down the order in response to a case involving claims by the Marin County, Calif., district attorney’s office that the retailer “unlawfully advertised structural dimensional building products for sale.” His finding lists three main rules for the retailer to follow going forward:

  • “Common descriptions” must be followed by actual dimensions and labeled as such. For instance, a 2×4 must be followed with a disclaimer that the wood is actually 1.5-inches by 3.5-inches and include a phrase equal or similar to “actual dimensions.”
  • “Popular or common product description,” like the word 2×4, must be “clearly described as ‘popular name,’ ‘popular description,’ or ‘commonly called.’”
  • Dimension descriptions are required to use the “inch-pound unit,” meaning they must include abbreviations such as “in., ft., or yd.,” and can’t use symbols like ‘ or ” to denote measurements.

According to a 1964 publication by the U. S. Department of Agriculture titled History of Yard Lumber Size Standards, the national standard for lumber dimensions was established in 1924, with several revisions made over the years since. How is it, then, after 90 years of national, government affirmed standardization, the “consumers” of Kalifornia are so bewildered that one company can be singled out and levied such an exorbitant fine for “unlawfully” labeling it’s product?

Surprised?

The real underlying issue, the greater concern if you will, has nothing to do with lumber dimensions.  This case is a mere symptom of a much deeper problem. There’s an increasing ideological divide in this country in which the courts and our government continually impose laws and rules that pander to the lowest common denominator. I believe the birth of this mindset originated with the McDonalds hot coffee lawsuit in 1992, which paved the way for these frivolous progressive “consumer protection” actions.  Common sense and personal responsibility have long since given way to this “nanny state” mentality, through which we all must be protected from our own stupidity and negligence.  After all, anything that threatens (reveals) our intelligence, or lack thereof, must be dangerous and offensive, yes?

Clearly not everyone thinks this way, hence the ideological divide. And make no mistake, the divide is real and gets wider every day as a result of the cultural and social dependencies nurtured by actions such as this lawsuit. I have no doubt that a significant proportion of the population is cheering this as a legal and moral victory. For every one of us who is outraged at the frivolous absurdity of this Lowes finding, there’s no doubt at least one counterpart in America who celebrates this as a victory against capitalistic dominance and discriminatory business practices.

We are a nation completely obsessed with taking offense. It dominates our news, our daily conversations, our social media, and shapes our political alignment.  Somebody please tell me, where is it written that anyone anywhere has a “right” to live without offense? Just because you’re offended, uninformed, underprivileged, or blatantly stupid, doesn’t mean you’re being discriminated against. And just because you’re inconvenienced certainly doesn’t mean you’re entitled to compensation.  Or at least it didn’t used to.

Everyone and his brother is fixated on one label or another, and any word, term, phrase, color, pattern, sign, or whatever that might cause someone hurt feelings is suddenly deemed insensitive if not discriminatory. Even our own US flag is under attack by those who worry it might be viewed as offensive. Imagine that!  Offensive!? Offensive to whom? And who cares?  This is America, and this is our flag, is it not?  But I digress.

We are becoming a nation of helpless entitled pathetic crybabies, more interested in reality television, selfies, and a government provided free ride than in learning and earning our way in this world. And God forbid, anything that offends any one of us, the lowest common denominator, might be socially and politically unacceptable. Perhaps all adjectives should be banned and we should all wear homogenous pattern-less uniforms of beige or some other benign color. While we’re at it, we can do away with nouns and names and just assign everyone a serial number. Equal income, equal distribution of wealth, equal opportunity regardless of effort or intelligence.  Socialism, Marxism, Communism…?  Where does it end?

You know what’s really scary?  There are plenty of “Americans” who think that’s a great idea.  How’s that for offensive?

I’ll tell you one thing, bub… if you don’t know that a 2×4 isn’t actually 2 inches thick and 4 inches wide, do us all a favor – instead of getting sawdust in your mangingo and lawyering up, put down the hammer, go buy yourself a box of tampons and a Midol, wash it down with that skinny soy milk double latte frappawhatever, and hire someone who knows what the hell he or she is doing.

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Off Topic – Kestrel Holster Review

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Kestrel IWB Belt Clip Holster

I’ve been looking all summer for an easy on and off IWB holster for my 1911. My criteria was pretty simple – a kydex holster with a 1-1/2″ belt clip, full body shield, and adjustable retention (most of the holsters I found used non-adjustable rivets). I looked at Blade Tech and some others, but their prices were much higher than I wanted to spend for a plain kydex holster. After considerable research and due diligence, I found a seller on eBay who offered what I was looking for – Kestrel Holsters. Kestrel also has a website at kestrelholsters.com with the full selection of colors and models, including both IWB and OWB.  If you don’t see your gun listed, contact them for availability.

Kestrel sells two flavors of IWB holsters, both for $30, shipping included. One has the standard thumb belt clip at a 10 degree cant, the other comes with a tuckable strut belt clip. They offer a variety of colors, and I went with the Olive Drab and thumb clip. Kestrel appears to make their holsters to order, but the lead time was less than 2 weeks. I received an email with the tracking number when it shipped, a nice touch. The holster showed up a couple of days later. 

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Replaced holster with safety on

I was immediately impressed with the workmanship of the holster, but soon realized the mold was made with the safety in the off position instead of on. In my experience, 1911s are designed to be carried with the hammer cocked with the safety on. There was no provision on the order form one way or the other, and it never occurred to me to ask or specify. I contacted Sean at Kestrel with the problem, and he responded within an hour with instructions to return the holster in exchange for a new one. He also paid my return shipping. The shipping was refunded immediately, I returned the first holster, and the replacement arrived 4 days later. 

The solution is always more memorable than the problem. Score one for service excellence!

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Super slim profile for minimal bulge

Had I ordered one of these holsters for a specific manufacturer and model, I would have expected it to be a perfect fit right out of the package. But ordering a holster for a 1911 in the generic sense necessitates a little flexibility in the expectations. I expected to have to do a little fine tuning for my specific gun, so was neither surprised nor disappointed when the holster didn’t “fit like a glove.” For one thing, the front slide serrations and sharp edges on my Colt are problematic with every holster I’ve tried. So, I did a little filing and smoothing here and there, and after 15 minutes or so, my gun was in and out without a dusting of olive drab shavings coming with it. Retention is extremely good – the gun is held very securely yet draws without hanging. Because it provides such a thin profile, it’s also surprisingly comfortable! I can easily wear this all day.

Overall, I am very impressed with this holster and even more so with the service I received from this small company. For $30, you’re not going to find a better kydex solution. Is it a perfect fit for my particular 1911? No, but it’s close enough. Would a $75 dollar holster from Blade Tech fit better?  Perhaps, I don’t know.  The 1911 platform has so many different variations, a one-size-fits-all holster is going to come with some small compromises. I honestly don’t think this would even be a thought with most other handguns. Nevertheless, at $30 each I will have no hesitation ordering more holsters from Kestrel for a couple of my other pistols. Sean confirmed they have holsters for more models coming.

To sum it up, if you’re looking for a simple kydex IWB belt clip holster, give Kestrel a close look. It might just be the best $30 holster you’ll ever buy!

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Shown with t-shirt tucked in. Easily conceals with shirt out.

 

Don’t Just Celebrate… Reflect & Remember

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Words every bit as relevant today as when originally written. On this July 4th, take 2 minutes; read these excerpts carefully and reflect on what this means for your life, for your country, and for our future…

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

I call not upon a few, but upon all: not on this state or that state, but on every state: up and help us; lay your shoulders to the wheel; better have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake. Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it. Say not that thousands are gone, turn out your tens of thousands; throw not the burden of the day upon Providence, but “show your faith by your works,” that God may bless you. It matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing will reach you all. The far and the near, the home counties and the back, the rich and the poor, will suffer or rejoice alike. The heart that feels not now is dead; the blood of his children will curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole, and made them happy. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.

‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death. My own line of reasoning is to myself as straight and clear as a ray of light. Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are in it, and to “bind me in all cases whatsoever” to his absolute will, am I to suffer it? What signifies it to me, whether he who does it is a king or a common man; my countryman or not my countryman; whether it be done by an individual villain, or an army of them? If we reason to the root of things we shall find no difference; neither can any just cause be assigned why we should punish in the one case and pardon in the other.

Let them call me rebel and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man. I conceive likewise a horrid idea in receiving mercy from a being, who at the last day shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains to cover him, and fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow, and the slain of America.

There are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this is one. There are persons, too, who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if he succeed, will be merciful. It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf, and we ought to guard equally against both.

Thomas Paine, An American Crisis – December 23, 1776

Off Topic – Grilled Corn with Shadon Beni Butter

Grill Corn and Brats

Direct Grilled Corn (with Brats)

In my humble opinion, there’s only one way to grill corn – out of the husk and directly over the coals (not gas – that ain’t even real grilling).  Now I know a lot of folks, including some very close friends, like to leave the husks on their corn when they grill it.  I don’t know, something about sealing in the juices.  But the fact is, corn has plenty of water and it’s not like direct grilling it dries it out.  Quite the contrary.

Grilling in the husks is basically just steam cooking using heat from the grill.  Direct grilling accomplishes something important that steaming doesn’t.  When you direct grill corn, the sugars in the water caramelize, resulting in an extraordinary sweetness that is accented by a touch of smoky goodness.  Trust me, nothing else compares.

Direct grilling corn is easy.  Grill it just like a hot dog, turn it frequently to make sure it cooks evenly.  You can tell when it’s ready by the color change and the light charring as shown in the photo.  You can top with butter, salt and pepper, but if you really want to impress, mix up some Shadon Beni butter (preferably in advance, it’ll keep all summer):

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter (room temperature)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Spread this on your grilled corn and then spritz it with some fresh lime juice, and I guarandamntee you’ll wish you had grilled more.  Please trust me on this; you’ll never want corn cooked and served any other way ever again.

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Thoughts on the Art of Restoration

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There are definitely artistic elements to restoration, and while mostly technical, I would argue that compositional elements also come into play in an unconventional sense. It’s very much like creating something with found objects. I approach restoration projects with the objective of finding the fine, although often fuzzy, line between age and damage, removing the latter while keeping the former. Instead of graphite, ink, or paint, the media used here were a variety of abrasives, lubricants, and chemicals that effect specific desired changes in metal and wood.

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Japanese Arisaka Restoration

The recent successful completion of the Lee-Enfield restoration has me inspired to work on a couple of other neglected firearms that have been in the family for decades.

My dad was in the navy in WWII and brought home a Japanese Arisaka rifle from the Philippines.  He never talked much about the war, and all he had to say about the rifle was that there was a pile of them that were free for the taking.  So, he brought one home.  Fortunately, he never tried to shoot it; more on that in a moment.

1930s-40s Japanese Arisaka before restoration (bolt removed)

1930s-40s Japanese Arisaka before restoration (bolt removed)

The rifle was stored in our attic from the time the house was built in the late 1950s until 1983, when my mother moved closer to town.  It went straight into that attic until 2006, when she moved into a retirement facility.  Unbeknownst to my brother and me, she gave it to a family friend.  Since each of us thought the other had it, the rifle never came up in conversation until last summer, when I happened to ask about it.  Long story short, the family friend graciously returned it to us, along with a side by side shotgun that is in horrendous condition.

I don’t know the rifle’s condition when my dad picked it up in the Philippines, but having spent 70 years in attics since, the Arisaka accumulated a lot of dust and rust.  The wood was in fair condition, but very dry; all the metal surfaces were rusty and most of the original bluing was gone.

Detail of the receiver and rear sight

Detail of the receiver and rear sight

After doing some research, I’m 90% sure this particular Arisaka was strictly a training rifle, and was never shootable. It appears to be some sort of type 38/type 99 hybrid with a mixture of parts from both designs. The biggest giveaways are lack of a serial number and proper hallmarks, and the fact that the barrel isn’t rifled. It is interesting, however, that it does seem to have all the correct mechanical parts of a fully functional rifle, including the firing pin, magazine spring, and the action dust cover, which is normally missing from all Arisakas. That one part, seen in the photo below, is probably worth as much as the rest of the rifle.

Detail of the bottom, trigger guard and magazine floor plate

Detail of the bottom, trigger guard and magazine floor plate

These training rifles are not uncommon, but they were not constructed to handle live ammo and are likely to explode if shot. The receivers were made of cast iron and intended for either wooden rounds or low power blanks.  Because they are virtually indistinguishable from the real rifles, a lot of GIs who brought them home after the war tried to shoot them. The consequence of doing this was not pretty.  This earned the later Arisakas a reputation for being poorly made and these are sometimes (incorrectly) referred to as Last Ditch guns.

Since I didn’t have to worry about shooting it or compromising its value (it’s a $50-$100 gun at best), the restoration focused primarily on the cosmetic, with mechanical function a secondary concern.  Fortunately, none of the screws were seized and the rifle disassembled quickly.  Compared to the Enfield, taking this one apart was a breeze.  The rust turned out to be mainly superficial, and came off pretty easily with some CLP and light brushing.  The receiver and barrel required a little more aggressive scrubbing with the CLP and steel wool, but cleaned up very nicely.

Arisaka-Comp-5Once cleaned and degreased, I used a cold blue oxidizing agent to darken the metal areas that were overly brightened by the cleaning.  This toned it down to a perfect match to the overall patina of this 70-year-old firearm.  With a little light surface toning, the result was a rich and lustrous dark blue/gray finish that accurately reflects the age and matches the remaining patina.

Arisaka receiver before & after restoration

Arisaka receiver before & after restoration

The stock, as I said, was overall pretty good, but the wood was very dry and splintery, and there were a lot of scratches and dings from laying bare in attics, etc.  A few applications of Kramer’s Best had it looking much better, but I still wasn’t satisfied with the result.  After looking at it and thinking about it for a few days, I decided to give it a light application of Watco Danish Oil, which is thin and penetrates well, and is great stuff overall.  Unlike many finishes, it builds up very slowly with a low sheen, and plays nice with other existing finishes in my experience.  I used a mahogany tint that matched the original finish on the rifle, and gave it just a single application.  The result was a remarkable improvement.  Scratches faded, tone evened out, and the overall surface just felt better in the hand.

Reassembled, the rifle looks great.  Since it’s not shootable, it will never be anything other than a wall hanger, but that’s okay.  It’s a piece of history and a link to my dad.

Arisaka after restoration

Arisaka after restoration

Cutting Grass

Author’s Note: Please excuse and indulge this divergence from the topic at hand, although it is in fact tool related. I wrote this essay about 12 years ago and came across it tonight. Given the time of year, I thought it timely. It brings back some fond memories of my own boys, and also reminds me of a certain nephew of mine who loves to cut grass…

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I’ve been cutting grass for as long as I can remember.  I guess I must have been about 8 years old when my dad finally consented to let me drive the “riding mower.”  It was a red Toro with white trim, not large or powerful, but to an 8 year old boy it might just as well have been a mammoth John Deere tractor.  By this age, I had some minor experience with the push mower, a white Briggs and Stratton motor with a hole in the muffler, bolted to the top of a nondescript gray chassis.  No bag attachment or height adjustment or self-propelled feature in those days.  It had a large semi-circular hole in the upper left side of the mower deck, the product of a violent altercation with large tree root in my grandmother’s yard, which my mother failed to address with the proper respect.  You see, everyone cut grass periodically at my house.

We always seemed to have a varied assortment of push mowers from which to choose.  This was most likely due to the genetic flaw in my father’s side of the family that makes all of us physically incapable of getting rid of anything regardless of its age, condition, value, or provenance.  It was not until my grandmother died in 1998 that we cleaned my grandfather’s clothes out of the closet in the upstairs bedroom of her house.  The pockets of his coat still held the cigarettes and buffalo nickel he carried the last time he wore it.  He died in 1935.

Oh yes, we had lawn mowers.  One had a rotary crank on top that required turning to start.  It didn’t run at all as far as I know.  However, that did not diminish its value as a “backup mower.”  We also had a non-motorized rotary blade mower that I used briefly… once.  We even had a mower with no motor, just the mower deck.  Actually, that one was mine.  I found it in a trash dump in the woods behind Stephen Smith’s house and immediately recognizing its potential value as an object of random retention, faithfully dragged it home.

Cutting grass, at least to me, was always a cathartic experience, a means of purging the day to day evils of childhood.  It was never a chore.  An interruption, perhaps, of other things I’d have rather been doing, but never a chore.  Climbing up on that riding mower, the world took a back seat.  I felt like a farmer preparing to plow a field, and I’d ride off to the edge of the yard to begin tilling my rows.  I patterned my swaths just as I’d seen the big tractors do.  One or two rows across the ends of the yard, and then perpendicular rows up and down the length.

Cutting grass was not a task I took lightly or rushed to complete.  I practiced making the endless cuts as straight as possible across the longest part of the yard.  This was accomplished by fixing my eyes on a distant point of reference and walking or driving straight toward it without looking at anything in between.  Singular focus was essential and distraction a sign of fatal weakness.  A straight cut was the epitome of grass cutting perfection and I was relentless in this pursuit.  It is something that I unconsciously do even today.  I would hone my skills by deliberately cutting curves and arcs, and then straightening them again on the next pass.  Missing a clump here or a tuft there was unthinkable and inexcusable.

I learned that, whether riding or pushing, it was best to overshoot the end of the row prior to making my turn.  Curved corners were sloppy and left an uneven cut.  I also learned that cutting the grass in the same direction every week produced what I privately called a “grain” to the yard that was most unattractive.  Alternating directions each week produced better results, and changing the direction by 45 degrees on a weekly basis was preferable above all else.  I found that when the grass was too tall, I could get fine results without raking by cutting at twice the normal height, and then crosscutting the yard again at 90 degrees, this time at the normal height.  This resulted in a mulched effect long before anyone thought to market mulching as a feature.

In later years, and not too long before he died, my father purchased a “lawn tractor.”  It was a very large (by comparison) red Wheel Horse with an 18hp Kohler engine and a 52″ cut.  It was delivered on the back of a large flatbed truck with ramps that extended down the back.  I must have been 15 or 16 at the time and was in heaven.  I cut every damned thing in site for all of 2 or 3 weeks.  I even cleaned and cut the ditch on the (country) road between our house and my grandmother’s lane.  Beyond the other side of the yard I cut a nice slice of ditch 30 or so feet down the road that gradually curved away from the cornfield to the road itself.

Now I need to jump in here and make clear that our yard otherwise was not what you might call manicured.  I’d never seen a bag of fertilizer.  In fact, at the time, I was quite perplexed as to why anyone would encourage grass to grow in such a manner.  After all, I spent much of my time reducing it to a respectable height.  No, the weeds in our yard were healthy and robust and I don’t recall questioning their existence any more than I did the grass itself.  My sole artistry was in the cutting, not the growing.

On my 16th birthday, I came home from the DMV with my license, and with determination forthwith headed straight to my first job – cutting grass.  It was the “estate” (as I liked to call it) of Dr. and Mrs. Norman Rock Tingle.  Dr. Tingle was my doctor.  Hell, he was everyone’s doctor in the upper end of Lancaster County, Virginia.  I’m recollecting that it must have been about 10 or 15 acres – 10 to 15 acres of viridescent wonderland, fronting the Rappahannock River about 10 miles or so before it emptied into the Chesapeake Bay.  Bordering the property along the gravel road leading up to their drive was a long hedge of huge wiry bushes that far exceeded my height.  The paved driveway itself wound through towering pines and expanses of slightly rolling grassland that closely resembled a golf course.  From many areas of the property the house was not even visible.  Standing at the back porch overlooking the river, the yard sloped gently down to the water’s edge, transitioning from earth and fescue to sand and sea grass that bordered the shallow but respectable beach.  Extending out into the mile wide river was a dock (pier), whereupon in cooler weather I would have my lunch.

Situated across the parking area that faced the garage doors of the house was the shed that housed the yard tools and mowers.  I knew my employers well, if only in a doctor/patient way, but that combined with the innocence of youth precluded any feelings of nervous uncertainty at starting my first job.  Besides, the challenge that lay before me was quite clear and I was in my element.  The yard was, in my opinion, in a terrible state of mismanagement.  My predecessor, a school acquaintance one or two years my senior, obviously had neither the respect nor eye for lawn detail that I had.  The yard was suffering from “graining,” the result of constant mowing in one direction.  Worse, the grass around the trees and bushes was not properly trimmed, the edges and boundaries of the yard left haphazardly hacked at or conspicuously ignored altogether.  My counterpart “worked with me” for a couple of weeks to “show me the ropes.”  He gave me his version of what the expectations were and how much and how little I needed to do.  It was all completely irrelevant and I found his lazy discourse annoying and lack of pride offensive.  My mission was clear before I ever set foot on the property.

Within a month I had the yard much improved and was rewarded with sincere kudos and compliments that the place had “never looked so good…”  Though I didn’t say so at the time, I was a little puzzled by this recognition.  It never occurred to me that anyone (who cared) should not cut grass the same way.  I simply did it the only way I knew how, with attention to every detail, with respect for the magnificence of the property, and with passionate pride in perfection.  Partly for my effort, but mostly because the Tingles were nice people, I was rewarded with an open invitation to partake of the soft drinks kept in the bar refrigerator, just inside the lower level of the house.  This was a privilege I enjoyed with some constraint and considerable appreciation.

The cutting of grass facilitates a distinct perspective of the world.  The very nature of the task isolates the individual and deprives everything auditory; the abrasive drone of the engine allowing only the voice of thought.  Yet, while so isolated from the distractions of sound, the operator is paradoxically interconnected to the open expanse of all outdoors.  The permeating smell of cut grass and dust, the stifling heat of midday summer sunshine, the tactile vibrations of a mechanical beast rolling over undulating earth overwhelm the senses and lull the driver into trancelike euphoria, facilitating a spectacular playground for the hungry imagination.

The sheer size of the property necessitated long leisurely hours spent atop the big Cub Cadet, time that afforded the sweet luxury of colorful daydreams and inexhaustible adolescent introspection.  I concocted endless fantasy dates and detailed romantic relationships with the girls I knew.  Relationships ultimately destined to remain confined deep within the fragile chambers of my imagination, bound by the demons of insecurity and low self-esteem, and closely guarded by teenage male ego.

I had a particular romantic interest those days in a young lady who quite by chance, lived within bike riding distance of the doctor’s estate.  She knew that I worked there and I made a point of mentioning the days and times I’d be around in hopes that she might wander by, perhaps on her bicycle and perhaps wearing “Daisy Dukes” and a bikini top.  She gave all appearances of being superbly, magically and magnificently mammiferous, and of this I was enamored.

She was an odd sort of girl, a loner, very shy in a group and not at all popular.  She was not beautiful in the cheerleader sense, but pretty enough in my 16-year-old opinion.  She had amazing deep auburn hair, sparkling blue eyes, and the skin on her freckled face was the softest thing I’d ever felt.  There was something about her that I found irresistibly charming.  One on one, she was delightful – funny and chatty, yet always mysterious.  I still remember her laugh.  I liked that she was not popular.  Being with her felt… less competitive, more comfortable.  She was surprisingly easy to talk to, and with her I could just be myself without the high school machismo.  I probably could have fallen in love with her.  There was just something about her…

Of course she never came by while I was working, and despite my mostly honorable and completely sincere feelings of affection for her, we drifted apart after 6 or 8 months of periodic dates.  For whatever reason, Joan was not interested in me, would never even let me kiss her on the lips – only her cheek.  My heart could only take so much rejection.  There were other yards to cut, other bushes to trim.  I mowed on.

I guess I cut the grass on that estate for four, maybe five years before college got in the way, even during the summer break.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be some years before I would again cut grass.  Being young and distracted by new adventures of life on my own as a college student, I never looked back at the life I was leaving.  I suppose that is normal.  Still, I cannot remember the last time I cut the doctor’s yard.  There was a last time.  There would have to have been.  I just can’t remember it.  I had already moved on and I missed it, even as I put the mower away for the last time.

Last Sunday, I got my mower out of the garage.  A black Briggs and Stratton motor bolted to a nondescript gray chassis.  No bag attachment or self-propelled feature.  My 11 year old followed at my heels and asked when he would be allowed to cut our grass.  I cut around the outside boundary of the yard for him, and then showed him how to cut straight lines in neat rows up and down the length.  “Go past the end of the row prior to making your turn.  Curved corners are sloppy and leave an uneven cut…”

cutting-grass

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