Sunday, March 31, 2013


In my first post I introduced you to Fred. If you will recall, he was the elderly man in the neighborhood whose grass I mowed. This story is about how my mamma and Fred worked together to teach me a lesson about work ethics. I was sixteen years old, and almost at the pinnacle of knowledge and wisdom. In other words, I was a teenage boy who thought he knew everything. You couldn't tell me anything. Being somewhat  of a typical teen, I had developed quite a habit of procrastination.

I had agreed to mow Fred's yard once a week. It was summer time, so the days were pretty long and for the most part care free. About the middle of one week, mamma asked me, "son, are you planning on doing Fred's yard today?" I told her that it was not in my plans for that particular day, and she let it drop. Good. I went along my merry way. But like a gnat usually returns to torment its victim, mamma asked the same question the next day. She got the same response. I thought I detected just a bit of irritation in her voice, but again, she didn't persist on the subject.

This went on for the next two or three days. Same question. Same response. However, with each passing day, I could tell she was getting more and more aggravated with me. You have to understand one thing about  my mamma. She had several non-negotiable rules, and one of them was that you didn't do anything, and I do mean anything, to show disrespect to an elderly person. (This has served me well, being a nursing home administrator.) To mamma, "putting Fred off, " as she called it was on the verge of crossing that line. Once a week, meant once a week. Period.

Saturday comes. Its been one week since the last time I mowed Fred's grass. For those of you who aren't familiar with southeast Texas, it was not uncommon for people to mow more than once a week during the rainy, hot summer time. But, since Fred was relatively content with once a week, so was I. Sure enough, I got up Saturday morning, and the inquisition began anew. However, this time I told her that I was indeed planning on mowing the yard. My plan was to wait until the early evening hours, when it would still be light, but not as hot. 

This is where things go from bad, to a bit worse. After lunch a couple of my buddies showed up unexpectedly and announced they were going to the island to play golf, and did I want to come along. What do you think? Of course I wanted to go. So, I go in the house and tell mamma, "I'm going to Pleasure Island to play golf." Her immediate objection, as you could have predicted, was that I needed to go mow Fred's grass. I explained that we were going to play only the front nine, and I would be home in plenty of time to get the job done before dark.

Her response was brief, but firm. "You are going to mow that yard, TODAY." 

Now we go from bad to really worse. I had a wristwatch that was flopping around bothering me every time I swung the golf club, so I asked one of my trusted friends to put it in his pocket, as I was not so equipped that day. We played nine holes, and I began to tell them I had to get home to do my work. One of them said, "it's still real early," and he showed me my very own watch to prove it. What a little dummy. I fell for it and off we went to play the back nine holes. I do remember thinking that it sure felt like we had been there longer, but I dismissed the notion, until it started getting dark. I think it was 4:30 pm by my watch.

I hit the back door pleading my case. "Mamma, they played a joke on me." 

"Well," she said, "I'm sure sorry about that, but you are going to mow that yard."

"But it's dark outside."

"I'll at least loan you a flashlight. Get the one from the kitchen drawer."

So off I went, in the dark, to mow Fred's grass with a flashlight and a 50 watt light bulb hanging over Fred's garage door. It was miserable. The mosquitoes were out in full force. They all found me. I couldn't swat at them, because I was holding the flashlight with one hand and pushing the lawnmower with the other hand. I tried putting the flashlight in my mouth, but it was too big. I just had to suffer through it. I remember thinking at the time that my mamma had lost her mind.

Today, I understand what she did. She called ahead and told Fred for him not to take pity on me as she was, "teaching that boy a lesson." I'm sure now that they both felt a little sorry for me, but they believed that that life lesson was critical. And to be sure, it was well learned. Today, I never mow the grass after dark without mosquito repellent.

Steve ( )

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