John Grindrod: Fall mowing definitely not on my Thanksgiving list

First Posted: 10/28/2013

Of course, tomorrow is the day that combines, as only Americans can seem to do so effortlessly, two pastimes that really on the surface shouldn’t have all that much to do with one another, as in gorging ourselves and satiating our love of all things pigskin both before and after sitting in front of all that fancy china that only comes out of that corner curio cabinet a couple times a year.

While I certainly know that Thanksgiving predates the traditional Lions-Packers game to which many will be drawn like moths to a porch light, with the feast’s roots so deeply embedded at Plymouth Rock, it’s hard for me to ignore my feeling that Thanksgiving is the ultimate tailgate.

A tradition in many homes tomorrow will be, once all are seated, going around the table, the surface that sees the insertion of the metaphoric leaf as infrequently as the china comes out, and having each person articulate something for which they are most thankful.

This year, I’ve got mine ready a day early. Thank the lawn-and-garden gods, fall mowing season is over!

Let me be the first to admit that, regardless of time of year, I’ve never really been a big fan of firing up the old Briggs and Stratton. Sure, there’s some satisfaction in giving the lawn a trim and gazing upon the nice straight wheel lines when done, but that satisfaction comes pretty early in the mowing season. By mid-summer, the weekly chore is sheer drudgery.

The process becomes much more time consuming in the fall because of how quickly the grass catcher fills, what with the leaves and pine needles that have broken loose from their deciduous origins.

Those leaves and needles and even the mushrooms that each fall spring forth from the often-besotted soil aren’t the real enemies for some of us unfortunates. Our adversaries are ones we face with great trepidation, those of us who have nut-bearing trees.

I can see several of you who have acorn issues nodding your head. I have one of those, but I’m not really talking to you acorn people. I’m talking to a more limited audience, those who sip a little java while gazing out a window and spy — gasp — a hickory tree or two.

To use an explosively nutty analogy, when it comes to being a mowing curse, an acorn is a firecracker, whereas a hickory nut is an M-80. Sure, with acorns, as I roll the mower over the top of them, there will be some pinging around in the mower’s undercarriage region. Hickory nuts, however, produce a far, far more explosive ordnance.

First of all, they fall with such incredible abundance in October, there’s really no way unless I quit every job I have and stop going to church on Sundays that I could possibly pick them all up before mowing. And, good luck trying to rake them!

To demonstrate the sheer volume of these devils with their soft green outer shells and the cement-hard actual nuts that lie within, I’ll tell you that after returning from my Italian adventure last month, I realized I had to shovel as soon as I got out of the car.


Let me explain that the hickory tree in the front yard (not to be confused with another in the back or the four others I have had taken out from time to time over the past 25 years) is no more than five or six feet from the edge of the driveway.

When I gazed upon that driveway edge, I saw a veritable snowdrift of nuts, easily a couple feet deep, a mound I could only attack by reaching for the snow shovel, lining the trash container with one of those large “I-pay-my-water-bill” lawn bags and shoveling, four full shovels’ worth, enough to fill the entire bag, a bag I could only pull out of the can after I subcontracted for a local cheerleading squad to come over and shout encouraging words.

When I mowed, with safety glasses on, I had to go ever so slowly in the most nutty voluminous areas of the yard so as not to kill the mower’s engine, all the while hoping that the staccato gunfire going on below the mower deck didn’t produce a projectile that would somehow miss the grass catcher, shoot out the back and drop me like a sack of Idaho russets. My pal Buzzy Bauman, when I told him of my hickory issues, voiced his concern over how much this exercise dulled the mower blades. Hey, listen, pal. That’s the absolute least of my worries! You just worry about your next yoga class!

I sometimes blame the squirrels for being remiss in their work in eating these things or storing them somewhere for the hard times ahead, but, really, that’s not really fair to them. I have always been all about squirrel fairness. It would take a convention of squirrels approximating the ornithological display in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” to put even a modest dent in the crop. The expanse of my hickories — those of you astute people will note how the professional writer turned an adjective into a noun to avoid the cheap laugh that always accompanies the double entendre by using another noun — is the veritable Golden Corral of consumables, minus, of course, the variety.

It will be with a song in my heart, when I am called upon to give thanks around my table of bounty tomorrow, that I will say, “Thank the gods of winter that it’s almost time to use that snow shovel for its intended purpose.”