A chill at last silences the mowers

Mowing grass at the proper height and using a mulching mower to return nutrients to the soil can help keep a lawn healthy. (McDonald Garden Center/Newport News Daily Press/MCT)
Mowing grass at the proper height and using a mulching mower to return nutrients to the soil can help keep a lawn healthy. (McDonald Garden Center/Newport News Daily Press/MCT)

It’s autumn, and summer lawns no longer hiss, my lawn mowers have been put away after what this year felt like an eternity of pulling the cord and pushing an internal combustion engine up and down the hills around my house.

Push mowers have changed little since that time in 1960 when I first began my work life using dad’s mower and my gas, a rope with a knot at the end for wrapping and yanking the engine to life. A few years later I became a busboy at a nightclub and, well, mowing grass was immeasurably better, satisfaction fueled by gasoline and old lady homeowners who recommended me to others. Old ladies always have liked me.

American bald eagles have returned to my woods, glorious creatures unconcerned about me, or anyone else who feels the need for four walls and a fireplace; this is their world, a feral place wherein rules neither are deliberated nor determined by legislative bodies. One envies the majesty and freedom of their existence, and I’m sorry we almost killed them off a few decades ago.

One need only sit for a short while watching the open field in front of my house to know we’re in the middle of what is called the “deer rut,” that time of year when male white-tailed deer drop all pretense of being wise and careful, instead chasing female deer all day long, hoping to impregnate as many as possible. Multiple times per day I see one or two females leap and sprint toward the woods, followed closely by antlered bucks who won’t take no for an answer.

It’s tempting to make comparisons to men, especially these days, but I’ll refrain. And no, you may not hunt deer on my land, but thanks for asking.

Tonight, as I write this, it’s chilly, a window is open, and my whiskey glass sits on the sill. Way off in the distance traffic is moving along the big highways, bound for Lord-knows-where, and a full moon is arcing across the southern sky. Jazz out of London plays on a radio in the next room and Sinatra is singing about “only you beneath the moon or under the sun.”

Most days I avoid town if I can. People live there. A couple of days ago I took a check for deposit into my bank. Have I told you how contemptible I find banks to be? Anyway, on the front door of my bank a sign proclaims, “remove all head coverings.” Evidently the banking industry thinks this will discourage robbers from coming in if they can’t wear ski masks.


I ask a teller who clearly thinks I’m a wingnut if the proclamation applies to women wearing burqas and, of course, the answer was yes. I love rural America but loathe so much of its small mindedness, so I thank her for taking my deposit and move on, silent and complicit.

Retail America tells me we’re already in the holiday season and my cynicism has begun to cool. For many it’s a tough time of year, a time when we think of those who have gone before, those who never will sit at our table again, the many who once loved us, despite ourselves. It’s a beautiful time of year and I, for one, am happy it has arrived.

• Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County



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