WOSTER: Who decided to try to grow things out here, anyway?As I mowed my lawn the other day, it occurred to me that I was engaged in a really foolish activity.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
As I mowed my lawn the other day, it occurred to me that I was engaged in a really foolish activity.
It was Sunday afternoon, warm and breezy. I hadn’t been out of the office for quite a stretch of days. I wore faded shorts and my old “Every Day Is Saturday” T-shirt (given to me by a retired friend during the few months I was retired back in 2009). The simple pleasure I was taking from pushing a mower through scraggly grass bordered on sinful.
Then the question of what I was doing popped into my head, and I lost some of my enthusiasm.
Sure, the lawn needed mowing. It was several inches longer than normal in places, and I like to keep it sort of presentable, if not perfectly trimmed and edged. It was also browning in a lot of spots, which says something about the health of the grass in my yard. I mean, the entire Pierre-Fort Pierre area has more water than we’ve seen since General Pick met Mr. Sloan and created the great Missouri River dam-building enterprise. How is it that we’re halfway through June and my lawn is drying out?
I haven’t been watering, obviously. The last thing the Pierre city drains need is more water running toward the river. I won’t be watering for quite some time to come, looks like, so the grass is soon going to look like the south pasture back on the farm late in August in the third year of a drought cycle.
That being the case, I thought to myself as I turned the mower for another pass in the side yard, wouldn’t the best course be to just let it go wild and see what happens? Whose idea was it to try to have lawns in the middle of this country, anyway? Everyone knows we’re on the wrong side of the rain line. Just because we’ve figured out a way — in normal years — to sprinkle water on nonnative grass doesn’t mean the Creator intended us to do that.
As a kid, I had those same thoughts. I’d kind of forgotten that until last Sunday. Back on the farm, we had an artesian well for basic livestock water and some domestic purposes. We hauled drinking water from town for several years. Before we started hauling water, we sometimes drank the artesian water, although the taste and odor was forbidding. As my late friend Marvis Hogen from Kadoka used to say, mothers had to sneak up on their kids at night and pour artesian water down their throats before they woke up. Otherwise, they’d die of thirst before they’d drink the stuff.
We didn’t have water to spare for growing grass. If we could have watered a lawn back then, we’d have watered the corn or alfalfa or something useful. We wouldn’t have wasted it on the lawn. The lawn survived on what water fell from the sky. Once in a while, we had a wet year and a thick lawn. More often, we had dry years and a sick lawn. I mowed, but the blade kicked up dust and debris.
In the hedge row, the fireweed grew tall in the driest years, and sometimes I’d knock that stuff back with the mower. That offered a challenge. The lawn itself was no obstacle for the old mower.
Even so, my mom liked the idea of a lawn, so we kept at it, year after year. In a way, her belief that we could have a Better Homes and Gardens lawn mirrored my dad’s belief that we could grow corn in the dry country where we lived. Once in a while, we had a wet year and tall, green corn with ears so heavy they hung down toward the furrowed earth.
More often, we had dry years and corn that was knee-high and yellowing by the fourth of August.
Years and years ago here in Pierre, we installed underground sprinklers. We were set for leisurely living and luxurious lawns. Turns out, if a guy can’t use the sprinklers, it’s a lot like trying to grow grass in eastern Lyman County.
Terry Woster’s column is published Wednesdays and Saturday’s in The Daily Republic.