For all of our 60 years together, hubby Homer, my Man Of The House, was in charge of the yard. His encounter with our first landlord who didn’t like the way he trimmed a mimosa (for which we were evicted!) dampened his enthusiasm somewhat. We were in rentals for much of the first 10 years of our marriage, but once we built our “forever” home in Woodstock, he became very serious about the lawn. I was happy enough for him to take care of the outdoors, but once my mother joined our family, she exerted her influence, gladly exhibiting her green thumb and her endless energy. While with us, she worked for a few years at a nursery/greenhouse, and we all reaped the rewards of her experience there. She had inherited her own mother’s love of flowers and plants, and that translated for a whole new look at the Hughes landscape. Needless to say, the MOTH did not share her love of shrubbery and plants. His main concern was the grass, and any other living flora was a nuisance since he had to mow around it. But somehow they managed to turn it all into a “showplace” … Mama’s term. Homer’s one contribution was a catawba (catalpa) tree in the back yard. It produced an abundance of leaves in season, and catawba worms showed up to devour those leaves just in time to be used as bait for those hungry bass and bream in Lake Allatoona.

Recently, in keeping with my New Year’s resolution to get rid of at least one item every day, I ran across a notebook filled with jokes and stories that I apparently thought I might need someday. One was an email attachment not credited to anyone. (I have found it online as well.) It was a conversation between God and St. Francis of Assisi, the beloved saint noted for his love of all of God’s creation.

The Creator addressed his remarks to “Frank.” His concern was with the disappearance of dandelions and violets and other flowers that he had planted eons ago. Those would bloom anywhere and produce nectar for butterflies, honeybees and flocks of songbirds. But they had been replaced with “green rectangles.” St. Francis explained about the Suburbanites who called the missing flowers “weeds” and who chose grass instead, going so far as to fertilize it while killing any other plant. God remarks how happy they must be when it rains and the weather becomes warm and the grass grows. But, no, Frank says, they aren’t happy. They proceed to cut the grass, sometimes twice a week. Then they rake it up and put it in bags, and throw it away at some expense. And when the heat of summer comes, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it. God calls this nonsense, and seems relieved that at least they kept some of the trees, a stroke of genius. The leaves would provide beauty and shade in summer, then fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil for protection through the winter. Here’s where St. Francis suggests that “You better sit down, Lord.” When the leaves begin to fall, the Suburbanites rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away. Then, to provide protection for the roots and soil, they go out and purchase something which they call mulch. They spread it around in place of the leaves. When God asked where did the mulch come from, He was told the truth of the matter. “They cut down trees and grind them up to make mulch.”

What a story. It brought back memories of the yard at the earliest home I remember. I can recall hearing my grandmother talk about lespedeza seed, and how she fussed when the pigs uprooted the grass roots. She purchased a lawnmower, a brand-new contraption that incorporated a new word (lawn) into our vocabulary. There was a lot of nectar-producing clover in the yard, and probably dandelions and violets. We could spend hours making clover bracelets, but the flip-side was the honeybee stings, a real danger in those barefoot days of summer. My Papa was not, by any stretch of the imagination, the keeper of the landscape at the home. Grandma and Mama did it all … the house and all that entailed, the yard, the pig pen, the cow stable, the chicken house, the garden and orchard. I don’t recall that she ever complained, and she took great pride in that first grassy yard. The word Suburbanites had yet to be coined. You could call her a pioneer. I have not a one of those genes, although I do find pleasure in the sight of green grass and flowering shrubs. I’m keeping close watch on my prize rhododendron and its many buds. But I’m quite content to pay someone to do the necessary chores associated with the lawn. I regret that I have no botanical genes to pass on to my progeny. Thankfully, some of them inherited a bit from another source. So bring on springtime. I’m ready.

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Juanita Hughes is a retired head of the Woodstock Public Library and a local historian.

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