Monday, May 4, 2009

the outback

CAPTION: mister copperhead. he may not have been this big, but he was this scary.
CAPTION: the outback. you can see the tall stuff where i quit mowing.

i decided i needed to mow. should have done it several days ago. but it's been pretty rainy. and today the forecast showed no rain. tomorrow we're expecting tons of it. i decided i needed to mow.

i have three mowing areas . . . the front yard, which is pretty easy. except the part between the driveway and the neighbor's yard. i have a hard time deciding where to stop mowing. they don't mow, it seems, so i always infringe a little on their property when i mow. sometimes i'm tempted to mow their entire lawn. nah. i'm not gonna do that. i'll wait til the semi-monthly mowing they hire done.

after the front yard comes the back yard. this is some work. our back yard is, oh, 60 feet by 90 feet perhaps. but the elevation drops some i feet from the house to the backyard fence. somewhere or another i have to push that heavy lawnmower up hill at about a 40 degree angle. and since the self-propelled feature of my mower isn't working, that backyard mow is some work.

after the back yard comes what we refer to as the "outback". apparently land is more plentiful here than it was in flagstaff. and probably more affordable. when we moved in here about a year ago we were told that the outback was part of the homeowner's association "green belt". therefore, the association would maintain that parcel.

well, the outback extends from our fence back another 60 feet or so to the creek. and . . . , it's not always a creek. it's really overflow from our lake which runs somewhere else going east from here. and last year it seems as though the folks that do the maintenance on behalf of the homeowner's association forgot about our outback. oh, it also runs behind two other houses, then opens up wider as it nears the street to the east. someone, i've no idea who, mows the outback from the street in to within two houses of us. there they stop. no idea why. last summer as i waited for the association to mow, the weeds and hearty grasses didn't wait. and before mid-summer the entire area was waist high.

i'm thinking that's not a good thing. as we'd already had battles with fleas, and then snakes, i began to feel that if the outback was cut, like the grass areas in our association park (which is seperated from the outback by a fence, for some reason. the various and sundry critters would cease to inhabitate the area.

well, throughout the summer the greenery continued to grow. unchecked by anyone. our neighbor to the east decided to replace the fence between us. as he was digging up the old fence he uncovered a nest of snakes. copperheads, they said.

the neighbor's helper seemed to be pretty well read on snakes. copperheads, he said, are very dangerous snakes. not only are they aggressive, their bite, if it strikes a vein, will kill you before "the amb-lance can git ya to the hospital." and he wasn't just some hillbillie. first of all, his name wasn't william, willie, bill nor billie. his name was jerry. and i have it on good authority that anyone with that name is automatically pretty darned intellilgent.

so we were taken aback a bit by learning that these dangerous creatures were residing so near us. for a while i kept a shovel out on the patio for defense against these creatures. but as time passed and none were seen, we pretty much got over the fear of being bitten in the vein by the dreaded copperhead.

oh, back to my story. somewhere during the fall, someone in a big, zero-turn-radius mower showed up mowing the outback area. i wasn't terribly surprised, as this seemed to be the guy who mowed the eastern most part of the area. but instead of stopping where he normally would, he mowed the whole damn thing. all the way back to the creek, all the way up to my fence. (except for the part immediately east of our fence and behind the neighbor's fence. that made no sense.)

well, i'm pretty good at taking care of a yard. and i decided that i wasn't gonna let the outback grow out of control again this season. so, as spring dawned and things (mostly weeds) began to turn green, i mowed. and after mowing the back yard i'd go out and mow the outback. not so bad since there was no growth in the winter and spring hadn't fully sprung.

i mowed a few times. then mister zero turn radius mower showed up and mowed again. ah, i get it. this is a semi-annual fest of some sort. (i'll address that in our association annual work meeting, which comes up next saturday.)

so i'm mowing the outback. ztr is mowing the outback. outback is really starting to look a lot like park. and then the rains came.

i mowed the outback 11 days ago. and it rained ten days ago. and nine days ago. and seven days ago. and then 4, 3, 2 and 1 days ago. so the outback, as well as the back yard, had a good deal of time to grow, a good deal of moisture, and no opportunity to mow. so outback made some major strides in beginning to look like it had last summer. in fact, i swear there was some growth that was at least a foot deep. in only 11 days! can you imagine?

so on the one day when we weren't supposed to get rain, i decided i needed to mow. so i rolled mister craftsman out of the garage, gassed him up, and cruised through the back yard. a little wet, but not as wet as it's gonna be tomorrow when it rains more.

then i stopped at the backyard filling-station, gassed up, checked the oil, cleaned mister craftsman's windshield, and pushed open the gate from the backyard and entered the outback.

on my first pass, right up against my fence, i saw the slither. just ahead of the mower. then, out of the corner of my eye i saw it again, this time in the freshly cut grass just inside the yard. mister copperhead. and he's in no hurry to escape. he's not quick slithering. he's simply sauntering. biding his time, cause i'm sure he knows i'm much more afraid of him than he is me.

i should say, at this point, that i can't be perfectly certain this is a copperhead. during the course of our brief, casual conversation, i was unable to draw much from my usually excellent ability to judge character. he could have been a harmless, garden variety garter snake. he could have been a deadly copperhead. in fact, he could have even been a she. either way, i wanted him/her gone. sadly, he/she got gone before i could grab a shovel and amputate it's filthy head. it slithered in the general direction of the tall, as yet uncut area behind the neighbor's fence. joining his hundreds of siblings, cousins, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. that i'm sure make that overgrown plot their kingdom.

now i'm a little on edge. do i continue to mow the outback? knowing full well that there are snakes present? do i abandon the mower and run for the safety of the house? well, i decided that the best course of action was to continue mowing. but keeping my eyes carefully focused on the area close to my feet.

i hadn't gone a dozen steps when i saw another slithering movement. my heart lept. my feet lept. but the slithering twig settled back down harmlessly. crap. i'm a bit jumpy. three of four more slithering twigs caught my attention during the mow. none of which seemed very confrontational. didn't make me feel any less uneasy. i remained keenly focused.

as i neared the minimum mowing boundary i'd set (i could stop just beyond the extension of my property line, of i could be a good guy and mow all the way over to the continually mowed area. I've done that each mowing thus far. however, due to the depth of the growth, together with the sighting of dangerous characters, i'd determined that i'd mow the minimum area. then, if i hadn't run out of energy and hadn't seen any more copperheads, and the mower hadn't run out of gas, that i'd continue onward, one swath at at time.) anyhow, as i neared my minimum mowing boundry, i began to feel moisture. i'd been fighting off jumping/flying insects of various sorts all along, so at first i didn't even realize i'd been feeling raindrops. then it became pretty evident when the lawnmower frame, gray in color, began to show evidence of rain. i had two or three more passes to reach my mmb (minimum mowing boundary) when hon stepped out into the back yard and was waving to get my attention. i signaled for her to wait one minute. i figured she was telling me i had a phone call, or she was going somewhere. i was nearly done. the rain had intensified.

i made my final two passes, shut off mister craftsman, then, wiping the mosture from my face turned to hon and asked what she wanted. "i wanted you to know that it's raining." she must not think i'm very smart.

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