Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Lawn Less Mowed

Our first home, well, the first one we bought after a few apartments when we were first married, was a nice little ranch house on Brice's Prairie in Wisconsin.  It was in a small development area on nice flat prairie land between the bluffs and near the river.  At the end of our street was a dairy farm.  I suppose that all the land used to belong to this farmer, since his barn was pretty close to the main road.  We were about the fifth house in from the end of the main road.

It was a pretty drive to and from our home and work in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, where I was a teachers' aide.  I had been a teacher in Maine, but when we moved I had to start over and there were not jobs...but that is another story.  Anyway, the huge bluffs, the flat in-betweens, the Mississippi River - all of these were common sights on our drives.  Beautiful farms tucked away in valleys at the base of the bluffs, and farms perched on top of the bluffs lay like undulating quilt squares.  You know Stevenson's poem The Land of Counterpane...well, that's Wisconsin and Minnesota on the Mississippi River.

We were young and newly married when we bought this first house and were not really versed in the care and maintenance of lawns.  Our older neighbor, however, was.  My husband stopped to chat with him one afternoon.  He had a beautiful lawn, so very well kept.  And ours was a mass of tangle-haired grass with yellow dandelion pigtails poking out all over it.  He told my husband that he'd finally gotten rid of all the dandelions on his lawn.  He was probably prompting my husband to ask how he did it.  Truly, we didn't even think he was trying to hint about anything.  So I can imagine what he thought of us when my husband laughed and told him he'd have more when ours all went to seed.  It really was just a statement of fact. Yes, it was dense now looking back on it.  We really never talked to him again, and I never did meet his wife.  But we didn't stay long there, so that could be the real reason why we didn't get to know them better.

It wasn't long after that conversation with the immaculate-lawn neighbor that we got an inkling of how differently we were maintaining our lawn compared to others.  Early, early morning (if you can call 4 am morning), I awoke to a noise I'd never heard before.  There was a rustling sound and low moans coming from outside our bedroom window.  I woke my husband, and we peeked out the window above our bed.  Just barely visible in the pre-morning light, we could make out white irregular shapes slowly moving about, lots of them.  And now the moaning, with awakened ears, was heard as the mooing of cows.  The scene was coming together as we squinted and listened.  Our front lawn was covered with black and white cows grazing on our lush lawn.  There was not a single cow on any other lawn in the neighborhood.   They had broken out of the pasture down the street and headed straight to our house.  Forget the other 39 lawns in our development. Why would they stop anywhere else?  Everyone knew the grass was always greener,  grew longer and had tastier dandelion greens on our side of the fence.
"Come on everyone, let's go to the Smith's house! "
I wondered how long they'd been planning this great escape.

Or... and this is truly, as I'm writing this, the first time I've thought of this possibility in the 38 years since we lived there...could it have been our neighbor?  Could he have let them out?
Oh, that would have been perfect.  I kind of hope it was!  We deserved it; though we did get the benefit of a well fertilized lawn that night...

We moved to a house farther out in the country shortly after the cow invasion.  Our neighbors there had cows, too, but the cows never came to visit.  We had grown up a little more.  We'd purchased a lawn mower.   No more lawn moo-ers for us! 

23 comments:

  1. I think I like reading late at night; I've read two posts now that have made me laugh out loud. I have wakened to cows in our meadow at the cabin, but that was free range, but never at my house. You brought up several possible situations, Donna, but I like that last one best. Good memories!

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    1. It was funny to us, even back then when it happened. We were only a little embarrassed about those cow patties on our lawn! At least the lawn got "mooed" HA! I'm adding that to my story!

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  2. I love the image of all these cows in your dandelion filled lawn. I immediately thought it might have been your neighbor's secret to a great lawn. What a fun story.

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    1. Oh, it WAS an image all right! Next best thing to an alien invasion!

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  3. I just wish I would have had the chance to live in the country after reading your post...how wonderful, what a precious memory. xo

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    1. I'm kind of glad we were so dense back then...it wasn't so embarrassing until years later!

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  4. Your story gives new meaning to "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence!" I chuckled all the way through it. Last summer my husband and I tried to gently nudge our married son to mow his lawn a little more often. They had moved into a new neighborhood over the winter. So I identified with the neighbor, but your description of "white irregular shapes slowly moving" was priceless.

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    1. We needed parents living closer by if we wanted to learn those things faster. We learned them all the hard way!

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  5. The mental image of cows roaming the neighborhood looking for the longest and tastiest grass and dandelion greens cracked me up! Your description of your drive to work is alluring. It seems you have always lived in places of natural beauty, Donna.

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    1. We have been blessed to be able to live in some pretty areas. When I travel I am always impressed with how beautiful different areas are and often say to myself "I could live here!"

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  6. This is fantastic! I love the allusion to The Great Escape.

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    1. Yeah, it looked pretty well organized to me. There had to have been a plan.

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  7. Donna, you tell a tale like no one else. This was so funny! (love your play on words) I'm afraid my husband would have been the neighbor not so approving of your lawn care.

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    1. No one should have put up with us - young whippersnappers!

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  8. I'm going with the neighbor theory...and I have had such fun reading your slice to my writing workshop kids; they loved the mower/moo-er word play!

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    1. Oh, I'm tickled that you shared it with them!

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  9. This is hilarious! I need a cow now.

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    1. Well, they do make it kind of dangerous to walk on your lawn later...

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  10. Hahaha, what a priceless story! My husband and I would be just like you guys were... if my dad wasn't one of those immaculate lawn guys! He has taken my husband under his wing, teaching him how and when to fertilize. Besides, we don't have any cows that close! :)

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    1. Ah, that may have been why we were so dense. We were 1500 miles away from both our families. No one to take us under their wing!

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  11. Too funny. We've all been that inexperienced first-time home owner. I loved the cow story.

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  12. au contraire ma petite....you and your sweetie were NOT using "weed and feed" the nasty herbicide that does not agree with the sensitive tummies of cows....consider that visit a compliment from the cows!
    Bon Appetit!

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  13. Oh, my. This gave me a good laugh. We know what we "should" do to keep our lawn to neighborhood standards--we were always just really bad about doing it! I love this story. (And I love that we are in a townhouse with no lawn responsibilities now.)

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