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I walk behind the mower, therefore I am

When I began my working experience, I always looked forward to the arrival of warm weather.
I could hear my wallet growing exponentially with each inch rise of the green, green grass of home.
Well, maybe more like the neighbors’ grass since I didn’t get paid for mowing our yard.
When I was about 10, I saved enough money from my allowance to buy a second hand push mower and then set out to find willing partners in my desire to become a millionaire before age 11. Well, that is a slight exaggeration, I was mainly hoping for a few neighbors who would give me $10 every couple of weeks to mow their yards.
I amassed a pretty good list of clients which kept me busy as long as my allergies didn’t get the best of me.  Al Weidenmuller was the first I think agreeing to my business proposal, but I had to learn how to deal with raking magnolia leaves prior to each mowing; next was Ed Mikell – with more Magnolia leaves.
Then as I progressed down the street, I picked up the Neils, occasionally the Reeds, who had Zoysia and I learned to hate that type of grass because it was so hard to push. Also sometimes the Grosses.
The list grew overtime and eventually I had to enlist my father to help get me to and from in his truck as I press on beyond walking distance.
I found the time behind the push mower a time to think, dream, write songs along to the rhythm of the engine in harmony with hits hum.
As I look back, sometimes I wonder where that youthful exuberance went for the activity. I kept up the business until I finished college, even adding other landscaping tasks and working sometimes miles from my home. Eventually though, I slowly weened my customers off my services as I wanted to focus on finding my fit in the professional world after earning my degree.  Leaving me with just the task of mowing my own yard.
Through the years, I have liked the task less and less, giving me the understanding of why so many were willing to accept my eagerness to mow. My late mother use to draw great joy from hopping upon the riding mower and going full speed around the task as I weeded and pushed. She looked forward to it, possibly because it was something she could accomplish with her failing health and see a positive outcome.
Sometimes now I am even blessed by the kindness of a neighbor who will knock mine out with his. I am so happy when I see his kindness and as happy when I return the favor to him.
Sometimes I miss that young boy and young man who looked forward to the inch by inch progress of the green growth, as I sit on my back porch, I look more forward to the end of the growing season and often quip, I should do like Hollywood – just kill it and paint it green so it stays the same.
No matter where you are in your synergy with the mower and the grass, I hope you find your bliss with the endeavor and make joy in the fact that I walk behind (or ride upon) the mower, therefore I am.

Carefree days of youth

I opened the door and the thickly painted white screen door slammed behind me. I seldom noticed the sound it made as I bounded down the three steps from our front stoop. Once down on the sidewalk, I was hidden from the street behind the huge green box hedges fronted by azaleas.

Once I was big enough to roam outside on my own, this is how most summer days began. Once I hit the sidewalk, I was making my way around to the utility room to pull out my green bike to open up the doors of freedom. Sometimes, my mom would be standing there by the washing machine loading in a load of clothes that she would later take out and hang upon the line for drying.

As I stepped up on the pedals, rested myself on the banana seat, and from behind me, I would hear “Be back by lunch, we are going to town for ‘looking and feeling’ this afternoon.

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied as I gained speed going down the driveway and turned to the left headed for adventure.

You might ask what is ‘looking and feeling?’ That is what ladies from our area called shopping when they were aiming to get out and not buy but enjoy the air conditioning in the stores in the hot summer months.

We did a lot of that which could seem to be a terminal situation when you had something else on your mind to do as a kid.

But for the morning, I was off to create some adventure, so, my first stop would be banging on a couple of doors to raise some other kids to play. Before you could say Hank Aaron, there would be about five or six of us on our bikes riding down suicide hill.

Soon we would move on to the woods where we had built a series of forts fully stocked with pinecones.

We would pick sides and we were battling the other team to ensure the survival of our clan over the other. Sometimes we were Yankees and Confederates, sometimes Cowboys and Indians, sometimes Germans and Americans, British and Colonists, it really depended upon what movie we recently saw or what history lesson was near at hand.

Either way, and no matter who we were representing the battles took form until we ran out of ammunition and the other team overran our stronghold. We would then restock the forts for the next battle day then we would be off for maybe wading in the creek and then back home in time for lunch.

Usually a bologna sandwich with a slice of tomato from the garden, a wedge of cucumber, some barbeque Charlie’s chips and a big glass of cherry Kool-Aid. Then I would go was off the and change from my play clothes and be ready to climb into the passenger side of our Chevy Malibu to head to the stores.

Often, I would be moved to the back seat, if we picked up another mom and kids. The children were sent to the back seat and we made our way to Woolworths, J.C. Penney, Sears or even Rich’s. Of course, in those days there were no special youth seats, we didn’t even use the seat belts. We sat still though or we would feel the long arm of the law from the ladies in the front seat.

We were expected to behave no matter how many hours the excursion was. Especially when we were in public – in the stores. If we ever forgot ourselves, which I did on a couple occasions and turned the women’s and men’s department into a playground and the underneath areas of the hanging clothes and good places with hide and seek with whichever other kids were on the outing. We soon felt the sting of our mistakes upon our posteriors, and it would come sooner than later if we disturbed other folks.

As I hear kids screaming at their parents and see them acting out in public today, I fondly remember the tough lessons my parents gave me. I remember those days of imagination, the hours of fun and I wish that children today could have those experiences, rather than a childhood attached to screens of various types and parents who look the other way when they act out.

 

 

 

 

 

The day that follows sleep

I got up this morning and wondered what will the day bring.

Each morning that I awake, I push myself from the bedclothes, I shake off the grogginess left by sleep.
I move my legs towards preparing myself for the day – wash, shave, brush, comb, fresh clothes and so then it begins. What will the day be?

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A flight of adventure

I was driving across Georgia the other day on a back road when I noticed on my right a youth heading in my direction from the right at a fast rate of speed. He wasn’t running, so I assumed he was on a skateboard. Protruding from the small blue toboggan on his head, I could see earphones covering his ear. Over the bushes in my line of sight, I could see his flannel green jacket gaining ground fast as I began to slow my rate of speed.

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A bucket of chicken and an airplane

It was Saturday morning and I had risen early in anticipation of a family outing.

I couldn’t have been more than seven and of course to me the adventure should start right then despite the fact it was an afternoon picnic that was planned.

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Doing nothing is an action, too

Recently I was honored to share the pulpit for a home going celebration of one of my late mother’s friends. Van McFall was among the close-knit group of moms within the circle of my childhood that I remember well. The mothers were Pearl, Van, Mary Burgess and Nettie Fisher. They got into all kinds of adventures from taking jobs as police officers, and bus drivers. They engaged in the midst of every type of civic service from political campaigns, parent teacher associations, boy scouts, girl scouts and everything you could imagine. Their activities threw all of their children and their husbands into the mix together. While we were not related, we spent endless hours entertaining each other while our mothers spent time together. We shared family births, deaths, holidays, school milestones, first jobs – many of which were at the local Dairy Queen, and the passing of endless hours of our youth.

In my neighborhood, we had a great group of children and we all found our place in that larger group.

Getting to share a few childhood stories with her children after not seeing most of them in decades brought back some heartwarming memories. I was reminded of folks I had not thought of for years.

I remember fondly remember hours of play after completing my chores around the house. Of course, as I got older, I took on odd jobs like mowing neighbors’ yards to earn a little money.

We all would gather to play and race our bikes down suicide hill. Van’s son Joe recalled one of his attempts at doing an Evel Knievel type Snake River Canyon jump using his father Joe’s new picnic table as a ramp. With the aid of some other neighborhood boys setting the lighter fluid the table was soaked in a blaze, he rode full speed for takeoff. He jokingly said it did not end well as many of the neighborhood moms realized what was happening, they ran to overt it, but not in time to stop him. Now I was not among that group who had a hand in that adventure but needless to say I found myself in some others.

I’ve had two bikes in my life; my first bike was small and green and well suited me. When I got big enough to earn my own money, I did odd jobs to earn enough money to buy a 3-speed red English racer. I saved all year and it was a Christmas present for myself. Buying that bike meant a lot to me.

I shared in our recollections,

on one of our trips down suicide hill, the new racer decided it wanted to go one way and me another. The accident sent me flying through the handlebars and sliding down the pavement for 20 feet or more. That still hurts just thinking about it. I had sores all over me from that adventure.

My friends and I would get in our share of disagreements with each other. Those would lead usually to some hurt feelings and some rolling around on the ground till someone would say “Uncle.” We always seemed to come through it. There really were no children who caused trouble in my age bracket. A few older ones sometimes got into mischief, but we always managed to keep out of trouble.

Do not get me wrong, there were bullies. We were just blessed not to have them on our street, at least for very long. I remember when I was about seven there were two brothers who took great pleasure in picking fights with me. At least, it seemed that way at the time.

A boy my age named Chris Sands moved in. His parents had just divorced, and at that time it was not as usual as it is now. I’ll never forget one meeting with those brothers that had me at the bottom of a wrestling match that I just could not win. Chris was the new guy in the neighborhood, and saw that I was being unfairly targeted for this fight and stepped in to pull the other boys off me. From that moment on, he was my friend — that is until he later moved away, and I lost track of him.

While time has erased many of the memories of the time we spent together hanging out as kids, that one action by the new boy on the block sticks in my mind. He saw something that was not right, and he did something about it. Not knowing the social lay of the land and the dynamics of the neighborhood hierarchy, he stuck his neck out for me. That is bravery.

Now I’m not advocating fighting as a way to resolve issues for children or adults. I was taught that it takes much more courage to walk away than to actually fight. However, when they jump on you, there are just a few hurdles you have to get over before you can walk away.

It is hard to walk away when you are at the bottom of the pile

I learned a valuable lesson from Chris that day.

Folks often do not like to stick their neck out to help other people, but when someone does, it makes our community a better place.

While that was a childhood lesson which placed something within me. As I reflected back upon the relationship that those four ladies shared, I am reminded that they stuck their necks out for one another and each other’s family again and again. Doing everything in their powers to make life better for each other and subsequently all of us, even though it wasn’t as apparent to us children. There was always something more to do when there was a need.

Ups and Downs of Dating

Can you remember your first love? How your heart raced? How excited you were to see the other person?
I remember mine like it was yesterday. I fell off the monkey bars, which were actually the steel handrails that went along the steps outside the school. She came over and helped me up. After I brushed myself off, she pushed me back down again. It was love right then and there.

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