Verlyn Klinkenborg's 'The Rural Life,' Unplugged

Oh tra la, fiddle dee dee, dance 'round all of the Maypoles, for Verlyn Klinkenborg hath taken pen in hand to scratch out yet another dispatch from the mild climes of rural America, which is mightily preferable to the indignities of the city, where all of Verlyn Klinkenborg's readers live. This week's fascinating topic: lawns. We got our hands on the rough draft, before the cityfied editors ruined Verlyn's vision.

I resent my lawn. It grows in the night. Right now, it's deep enough to hide a body. I've thought about cutting paths through human beings, letting the rest of it grow wild.

I have no neighbors to tut over my un-mowed lawn, because I've killed them, and the other organisms on the farm, such as the bacteria that inexorably turn even the bloodiest dead bodies into dirt, seem to love it. Ceilidh the terrier grazes the grass at first light, dew gathering on her face. The unevenness of the grass gives spiders a richer undergirding for their webs. Another week and mowing won't be lawn care, it will be mortuary science.

Did you see that I named my dog "Ceilidh?" I mention that like all the time. I'm a smart man. Smart enough to get away with murder.

A lawn seems especially arbitrary here on the farm. Much like life and death. Beyond the fence, it is pasture. And yet when I mow the pasture, it doesn't become lawn. And if I parked one of the horses on the lawn, it wouldn't become pasture. But if I buried the dismembered bodies of dozens of my neighbors in the pasture, would it become a graveyard? Who am I to say?

Lawn mowing - like murder - is one of those long strands that reach back through my life. It's what young boys in small towns are supposed to do when they're not delivering newspapers, or killing small animals to sate their youthful bloodlust. The most prosperous boys in my boyhood town - the crew-cut twins and Future Farmers of America - ran a business with mowers that gleamed like new combines.

I killed them.

I will give it up, the lawn, and let the ferns and the wild mint and the decomposing bodies take over. But like so much else in our culture, it is a terribly hard habit to break. All the more because when I mow, I see the farms I knew as a child. Out in the fields, my uncles are driving their tractors, cutting alfalfa. My aunts are all on riding mowers, zooming around the hydrangeas, the house and the edge of the grove. And most of my cousins are buried there, in the lawn, with hatchets in their skulls.

That Verlyn sure is something.

[NYT. Photo: Linda Doughterty/ Flickr]