Like many American fathers, mine always took a special pride in the appearance of his yard. Quite a few dads measure a large portion of their worth by the quality of their lawn. Because of my father, I could probably teach a brief course on the best way to care for your grass. That does not, however, mean that I would actually be capable of maintaining it. If yards were haircuts, my father’s yard is a healthy quaff styled by a true master, whereas mine would be more like the patchy remnants of alopecia hacked and mashed by a crystal meth addict. Needless to say, he holds the highest standards for yard work and my passage into manhood had a lot to do with that.
When I was thirteen, it had been debated if I was truly ready to learn to wield the power of the riding lawnmower. Up until that point, my chores included keeping the house free of trash, the garage free of dirt and the driveway free of leaves. Sometimes my father would have me dig a hole or whack weeds but mowing the lawn was out of the question, the closest I ever got was when he would have me edge the house with a pair of hand shears. Things changed when I turned thirteen, though. I was ready and everyone knew it. I prepared myself because by doing five sit-ups every morning and beating myself with reeds because I knew that summer would be the summer I became a man. Training was hard but I eventually had all the information and practice that I needed to mow the hell out of a lawn and, for a moment, my father was proud of me. I was shining in the sunlight of his love.
One afternoon, I noticed that the mower needed to be fueled but had difficulty locating any gasoline. I spent the better part of an hour running back and forth between the garage and shed hunting for any small red container with a few drops of fuel until I was exhausted. Then I remembered seeing several red canisters in the very back of the shed. Two were empty but one substantially different looking silver canister had plenty of fuel in it. I quickly dumped it into the gas tank and tried to start the engine. The mower started, ran for a second, made a bad smell, shuddered and then died. Having tried to restart it a dozen or so times, I gave up and went inside to consult my mother. When I replayed the events to her, she went into a panicked rage. I was informed that I had put kerosene into the mower and that my father was going to murder me when he got home. This was not first time I had been promised death upon the return of my father. When I was two, I once crammed several wads of electrical tape into a VCR and, at age ten, I had lit fireworks off in the house.
The relationship between a father and son contains a deep unexplainable love and a deeper even more unexplainable animosity. Dads spend their lives passing important information onto their sons while resisting the urge to crush their heads with their bare hands. It’s been this way since ancient times. For whatever reason, my father opted not to destroy me but he also did not trust me to touch anything of his that held any value for the remainder of that year. I did not have to mow the lawn once that summer and was free to loaf about with my friends, read and write all I wanted. All it cost me was my father’s respect forever.
I’m lucky to have even been able to share this with you this week. I’m reasonably certain that every animal between Detroit and Chicago has tried to place itself directly in front of traffic. I very nearly hit three deer on my motorcycle just last night. If you drive, be safe out there. If you don’t drive, well I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before animals wander into the cities and try to derail your train or poison themselves in your apartment.
Hand shears: Now lemme see. Edged the side walk, walkways, carslab, garden beds, around trees, sprinkler heads, 300 feet of Florida Cherry hedge, and all around house. Then parents made a Magnificent God Moment of giving me 75 cents. I wish I had the verbal acumen at that age to tell them where to stuff it. That was over 50 years ago(they would probably give me $1.25 now i.e. COLA and inflation) and I have still resentment.
Yeah I wasn’t a fan of the hand shears either, Carl. I don’t recall getting paid per job, I think I was only rewarded if it seemed like I was going the extra yard. Seventy-five cents it a gyp.
I got my first real job at fourteen.
Push-ups and beating yourself with reeds? That was hilarious.
I admit, I chuckled.
There is nothing funny about becoming a full blown man but there is something totally extreme about it.
Thank you so much for posting that! I was thinking of that exact bit!
This had a lot of swearing, Jessica.
It really helped express how much Louis CK doesn’t care for deer.
You’re seen my latest blog post, right: The one with the roadkill???
Seems to be a trend! ;)
Perhaps they’ve got a head’s up on the real end of humanity, and they’re taking the en masse, People’s Temple-ish way out. Only not with Kool Aid. And sans sexy shades…
You’ve also got a phony pregnancy in it. Seems to me like our blogs might have a little TOO much in common. Do we become each other’s greatest enemy or each other’s greatest lover?
The People’s Temple did it right. You’ve got to give them style points.
That is the best technique for never having to mow the lawn. But for me, it’s about 17 years too late though.
It only saved me for that one summer. I mowed the lawn like it was my religion after that until I had a regular job.
It is unfortunate that deer rarely survive a collision with a vehicle. If they did, they could pass valuable information on to their offspring about why the “deer in the headlights look” isn’t a good thing.
Maybe someone should start handing out fliers about the dangers of cars in the woods.
So very funny, sorry :)
ps: mothers and daughters are much the same …
I’ve heard this and seen it action a few times.
When I was a kid, my parents gave me a go-kart for my birthday. It was yellow and ran on a lawnmower engine. They put a bolt under the gas pedal so I didn’t drive it too fast. I ran a two-track into the lawn.
I did not get to drive it half as much as I would have liked. I outgrew it’s frame rather quickly and thus it sat in the garage, most of the time, until they sold it to a kid twice my weight (go figure). I harbor no resentment.
One evening, I wanted to drive the go-kart around a little, but it didn’t have any gas. So like you, I searched the garage for a can of something promising and dumped it in the engine. My parents and grandparents came home and spotted me trying to start it. I told them what I put in it and as it turns out, I tried to gas it up with used motor oil.
A half hour and many oil rags later, they put real gasoline in it. They didn’t think it would ever run again, but, after it puffed a bit of smoke, it ran just like new.
So much as yardwork was concerned, my grandfather mowed the corner we all lived on (our house right next door to his) like a zealot–once a week, sometimes more frequently than that. Nobody under the age of 60 trimmed that grass.
As regards father-son relationships and emotions, I never got more crap from my dad than when we had to work on my car, or when I helped him work on his (or the house, or the yard). This was not due to any perfectionism on his part, but, due to a heart prone to ferocious care. Took me ages to learn that his concern for me was a positive force–that he meant well with what seemed like impatience with me. Until then it had a way of destroying my self-confidence/regard. Took me ages to learn that I could be a millionaire and he’d still worry about me. Took him ages to learn that, too.
As you also sort of noted, I think that’s just how it goes. You’re on good terms until you’re thirteen or so, and then, if you’re both smart, you’re on good terms again when you hit your late twenties. In between, it’s up in the air.
And finally, I can’t resist directing you to my own drawing of a Michigan commute, starring a deer: http://19cartwheels.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/neuroticomics-1-stay-staaaay/
Jeff, I am becoming frightened at the potential that one of us is the other’s doppelgänger.
This means that I frame you for a crime, then you find and kill me at the end of Stage 3-3.
“Dads spend their lives passing important information onto their sons while resisting the urge to crush their heads with their bare hands.” Couldn’t have said it any better… oh and you’re cracking my shit up with that last cartoon about deer.
The truth is always the funniest.
You are hilarious! The comics really sum it up, and I do not, will not ever understand deer. One literally ran into my husband’s car. Right into the driver’s side door. How is that even possible? I suppose him driving down the road was just too tempting an offer.
Based upon what I know about deer, it did probably seem too tempting to them.
So now I’m wondering if my teenage geniuses sabotaged the lawn mower.
Yes, we’re the house with the jungle. The one everybody hates.
It sounds like someone needs a savage beating.
I suggest using a belt or your mind.
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