The charge of the lawn brigade

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 11, 2009

Early one morning I sat on my patio enjoying the first cup of coffee of the day, enjoying the orchestral performances of the birds in the full song of spring. In an instant, the calm of the morning was shattered when from two houses over, a weed-trimmer sputtered and snarled its way around the property. Soon after, a badly-tuned mower thundered to life, followed by a blower that sounded like a Boeing 747 on final approach. The air filled with the stench of exhaust. I gave up and took my coffee indoors. It was just past seven on Saturday morning.

This scenario plays out all across America on weekend mornings. Every neighborhood has one — the guy who insists on performing a complete lawn makeover using every two-stroke implement in his garage, preferably before the sun has barely cleared the trees, so as to rout from their beds as many of his of neighbors possible. After all, if he is out on his John Deere at sunup, so too should his slovenly neighbors be out on theirs. It matters not if after a hard week they might have been looking forward to an extra hour of sleep, they need to get their lazy carcasses out of bed. When confronted, he is genuinely perplexed that anyone would object to the early morning sonic assault he has perpetrated. He will probably become loudly indignant that his Constitutional right to raise the dead is being infringed upon, and that this represents yet another attempt by Godless liberals to steer the nation toward Socialism.

I have noticed that this is particularly common in areas that are closely tied to an agrarian past. For generations, working the land commenced well before sunrise so as to complete the heaviest of the tasks before the heat of the afternoon set in. Though only a small percentage of Americans today still earn their livelihood from agriculture, there seems to linger in our DNA some vestigial impulse to begin breaking the land before the moon has set, as did our agrarian forebears. If it happens to irritate the neighbors, then so much the better. I suspect, too, it may also be rooted in an American ethic that dictates if you are not literally being productive every waking moment, then you are a lazy, slack beast and quite possibly a Communist. It is a fine work ethic, and historically it has served our society well. But it does have its limitations.

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I am going to submit, however, that the Saturday morning charge of the lawn brigade may also reflect something less praiseworthy in the contemporary American character: the mullet-headed conviction that we can do whatever, whenever, as loudly as we want to, and that those who live in proximity to us will just have to deal with it.

I am confronted with this attitude in Natchez on a daily basis, from the early weekend morning activities of the lawn cowboys; to the chromosone-shattering bass pulsating from the passing car that cost less than the speakers it contains; to the empty beer cans and liquor bottles tossed out of cars with impunity by drunken yahoos; to the ear-splitting roar of the “tuned” exhaust system that is intended to remind us of what a tough guy the owner of the car really is.

Unfortunately, the implicit statement contained in each of these examples is an upraised middle-digit by the ascendant selfish to one another, and to the dwindling few among us who do pause to consider the impact of their actions on those around them.

Now, please excuse me while I go open up my windows and doors and crank up some Led Zeppelin until my eardrums (and yours) commence to bleeding. Y’all just need to get over it.

Tom Scarborough is a Natchez resident.