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My husband and my neighbour’s husband are Men of the Grass. Both are devoted fathers, who routinely indulge their children, but neither is a fan of tents, nets, inflatable pools or any of the plastic kiddie-buckshot that gets sprayed across their unsuspecting backyards during the summer months.
The clutter is undignified and tough to mow around, but more than anything it ruins the seasonal satisfaction of sitting back, sipping a brewskie, taking in a deep breath of freshly-mown, and admiring the unfettered vista of a submissive expanse of green.
The hardship of an increased workload pales by comparison to the unspeakable joy of a neatly-manicured lawn.
Unfortunately, fellow home owners do not hand out blue ribbons or certificates of merit for jobs well-done. They are cold-blooded pragmatists, driven first and foremost by property values and who is or is not doing his part to keep them up.
Achieve excellence in this realm and you will be spared the evil eye of a passerby—nothing more, nothing less.
During the winter months the priority is snow removal. How low did you go? Shovels scraping against naked concrete sidewalks flanked by walls of white are the true measure of a man once the snow flies.
In the summertime, though, meticulous greens-keeping is the definitive act that separates the doers from the slackers and the winners from the losers.
Through the years, these two Men of the Grass have learned to suffer opportunistic weeds and the unwelcome solids of feral cats and crouching dogs with strength and honour. In theory, anyway, they ought to be united in fulfilling their duty to society by periodically slaying dandelions and shaving seasonal top growth.
But the weekly chore that might bond them to one another like brothers in arms has become increasingly fraught thanks to a small patch of disputable territory between our two properties.
You see, there are all kinds of lines: border lines; front lines; lines in the sand; laugh lines; life lines; sight lines. And then there are lawn lines.
These are the visible panty lines of the domestic arena, where two neighbours’ grasses meet in a fenceless, hedge-less patch of common ground which, when only one side has been mown, leaves no doubt in the mind of the casual observer as to which Jones has failed to keep up with the other this week.
Even Mercedes Benz versus Toyota Corolla can’t rival the tense disparity of green versus greener and short versus shorter. At least, such is the way of it between these two Men of the Grass.
Last weekend, up until Sunday afternoon, my neighbour’s husband had bested my husband in the latest episode of Grass Wars.
Ric is a man with seemingly boundless energy. He mows mid-week, one-handed, often wearing stylish outfits with a casual nonchalance which, if I were a Man of the Grass, I would find irksome. This left Mark twisting in the wind until he could “get to it” on the weekend and only if he wasn’t hopelessly bogged-down by family commitments.
You should know that our lawn was nowhere near deplorable shagginess. But having been left with visibly more bandwidth than our neighbour for nearly seventy-two hours my husband had once again fallen into the trap of seeing the Lawn Line of Shame as something akin to a character assassination.
Three millimetres of grass, visible to the naked eye—but only up-close and really, really straining to see—stood out like a sore thumb. From Mark’s vantage point it was an accusation of inexcusable sloth.
A Sunday afternoon nap-attack had all but separated me from my worldly cares and concerns—like why curried mango quinoa salad has so violently usurped macaroni salad in just a few years’ time and will I ever eat macaroni salad again—when the rhythmic wraaaah-wraaaah-wraaaah of my husband’s gas-powered mower jolted me back to reality.
I glanced at the clock. The neighbours, the self-same Man of the Grass next door and his wife, were coming to dinner in just over an hour. There would be no time for Ric to respond, to defend his line.
My husband’s timing was no accident: It was a cold, calculated act of war.
I looked out the window and watched the turf between our two properties being neatly devoured by the hungry, rotating blade of a Man of the Grass who meant business—who may or may not have worn the slight smidge of a smirk on his face.
Now it would be Ric’s turn to bear the burden of the Lawn Line of Shame.
Yet another battle—in what promises to be a long, cruel summer—had begun.