An Uncut Patch of Buttercups

by

I clip the ipod shuffle to the frayed neckline of one of my oldest son’s threadbare tee shirts. I’ve stolen the shirt from his drawer. The sleeves are cut off and the faded gray form hangs loose on me, great for catching a breeze as it blows through.  I secure the ipod ear buds, slide the power button and feel the beat from Dwight Yoakam’s White Cadillac travel from my head to my feet. I rock across the front porch on my way to meet my nemesis, the red troy built push lawnmower. I prime the machine and pull the start cord. The mower roars to life and my battle with the grass and my exercise plan begins.

I hate walking a track, riding a bicycle to nowhere, or sweating on a treadmill. I want to know, right away, that the work on my muscles is providing a reward I can see. I’ve found that cutting the grass gives me some instant gratification, an increased heart rate, and a neatly manicured yard.

Bruce looks at me and shakes his head. It’s the ipod. He thinks I’ve gone all-teenager on him. He doesn’t own an ipod or anything with ear buds.  He’s a retired mechanic with a lawn maintenance and mulching business. The sound of his machines provides a melody only his ears can hear. He likes being able to pick out anomalies in motor sounds or just listen to a gentle smooth-running purr. The ipod may speak teenager to him, but our teenage years are well behind us.

We met when I was sixteen, a senior in high school. He was older than me, already graduated and working. He took me to my prom in his ’76 Ford Pick-up. We slow danced to Bob Seger on the radio in my mother’s kitchen.  Life was big, our future endless. Together, we could accomplish anything.  Some thirty years later, we find togetherness in yard work.

My mower is not self-propelled, and it takes me four hours to cut the entire yard. I usually break the work up into smaller parts during the week. At the end of seven days, it’s time to start over again.  Mowing would be easy if the task ahead of me was all flat ground, but we have some killer hills. I sweat and my legs burn.

Bruce takes the weed eater and heads to the steep bank at the front of the property nearest the highway. He cuts the steepest hills and follows behind me at a covert and safe distance to catch my misses. I’ve told him he’s not allowed to direct my exercise plan or my mowing. He’s a perfectionist; I’m not.

I head to the backyard and begin mowing rows back and forth, under the clothesline and around the outdoor wood burning furnace, all the way to the garden gate and just to the opening of the tin roofed shed. I move the youngest boy’s bicycle and prop it against the picnic table. Buttercups are tall and bright in the yard. Their height makes my visual track easy to distinguish. The right side of the yard where I’ve cut is all short grass and green, the left side, uneven and tall with thousands of yellow dots. Creedence Clear Water Revival sings Bad Moon Rising as I turn the corner to the side yard, mowing between the lilac and mock orange bushes, around the peonies and under the snowball bush. The slope in the yard is higher here and I work harder.

We used to listen to CCR when we camped by the river after we were first married. Fire-roasted hot dogs on sticks, Proud Mary rolling from the radio,  and star gazing outside a pitched tent was all we needed or wanted. We were the only two people in the world.

My legs begin to wobble and my throat is parched. I shut off the mower and grab my water bottle from the steps leading to the shed. I go in search of some shade to cool off a bit. As I round the corner of the house I meet Bruce. He’s leaning against the shaded wall, drinking from his own bottle of water. I join him and the two of us rest and wipe sweat from our faces.

My ipod switches to Bob Seger’s We’ve Got Tonight, the first song we ever danced to. I smile and take one of the ear buds out, placing it in Bruce’s ear. He smiles back, remembering. He takes my hand and leads me to a small patch of uncut buttercups in the front yard, and the two of us slow dance to a memory.

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9 Responses to “An Uncut Patch of Buttercups”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    LOVE IT!!! Bruce is so sweet and reminds me so much of my dad and uncle!

  2. train-whistle Says:

    Thanks Steph, you caught him in a good moment…and come to think of it, so did I.

  3. Jim Cantwell Says:

    I am rarely at a loss for words, Train.
    There is only one word to describe this post, awesome

  4. Southern Sea Muse Says:

    The iPod shuffle is a wonderful transporting device 😀

  5. OldMack Says:

    You wove this present and past into a marvelous tapestry, while giving us a tour of your yard, exercise plan and slow dancing with your Bruce. Wow! You really are rolling on.

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