So this weekend, MaryLee and I received confirmation… we’ve put it off long enough.
Paralleling Captain Quinn from the original Jaws movie… we’re gonna’ need a bigger mower, the old loyal Cub Cadet had spun its last blade bearing, thrown its last deck belt, and sputtered through its last stand of Johnson grass — it was done for.
When we moved to Oklahoma some 13 years ago, we sold a house in a modest neighborhood, in a city about the size of Cushing. That house had front and back lawns that consisted of a combined total of maybe 1,000 square feet of Kentucky Bluegrass.
But things are different in the desert.
(Note: For full effect, read this next paragraph using your best Rod Serling Twilight Zone voice.)
Imagine if you will, a place where there are not 50 riding lawn mowers lined up in front of the Home Depot and there are no Facebook debates raging over whether the Bad Boy or the Hustler is the best grass-cutting machine ever built, but everyone — literally everyone — pushes little tiny lawn mowers to trim their grass. Imagine a place where, if you drive across the lawn just one time with anything heavier than a Radio Flyer red wagon, you will kill the grass and it will never grow back… ever.
No, it’s not the Twilight Zone, but its close… it’s New Mexico.
I consider myself kind of worldly… but I had never been on a riding mower in my life until we moved to Oklahoma.
Back in the desert, Wife and I had a little rattle-trap Briggs and Stratton mower with a rusty, red and cranky threehorsepower motor bolted Frankensteinstyle, to a green and dented 18” mower deck. We paid a total of $25 for that mower at the pawn shop.
It took about 45 minutes to cut the grass with that abomination and at least half that time was spent pulling the starter cord and saying bad words.
In New Mexico, large expanses of grass exist only in municipal parks, cemeteries and the fairways of golf courses. The powers that be have huge, noisy contraptions that keep the fairway turf short (one day maybe I’ll hit my second shot from that short grass).
Very few private residents have big ol’ lawns around their big ol’ homes because no one wants a big ol’ water bill.
Instead, the big estates spread pink gravel and plant cactus and salt bush and call it Xeriscaping.
If you do want a little patch of grass to green up your part of the high desert of Northern New Mexico, you’re gonna have to water it from your private well or the municipal water supply because water doesn’t just fall from sky, you know.
Keeping Kentucky Blue or Bermuda grass alive in the desert has never been God’s jam.
The big guy’s not often inclined to make it rain… but when he does, he’s like, “Hold my holy beer, boys… I’m gonna dump four inches of flash flood on that packed and cracked sand. Those good Christians have been praying for rain every day for the last three months and I’m going to give them everything they’ve been asking for in the next hour and a half…
As promised, for the next 90 minutes, four inches of rain falls so hard and fast that 95 percent of it rushes across the ground into the arroyos, which rush into the Rio San Jose, then the Rio Puerco, then the Rio Grande, which flows into Texas where not even God knows what they do with their water — besides steal it from New Mexico.
This massive runoff leaves behind the remaining five percent of everything that fell —less than a quarter of an inch — to soak into the ground and give the grass a tiny sip, but this only happens once or twice a year and isn’t nearly enough to sustain a thirsty lawn — that’s on you.
So imagine our surprise when my Wife and I moved to Oklahoma and realized that the grass grows here whether you want it to or not and our little Frankenmower just wasn’t going to cut it — literally (see what I did there?).
Our place here in Oklahoma is seven acres (more or less according to the realtor who sold it to us) and has about three acres of grass that grows so fast you can hear it.
Our first-ever riding mower was a dark forest green MTD with a 15 hp Briggs that we bought at a yard sale for $300.
We mowed everything we could with that thing, not realizing it was underqualified to cut three acres and couldn’t be treated like a brush hog either — who new?
Clearly not us.
Over the next decade or so, we went through four riding mowers of various sizes and just killed off the fifth and largest one this past Saturday (R.I.P. Cubby).
I know that it’s time to get serious and purchase a big zero turn and get our lives back in order, but every time I try and justify spending three grand on something to use to cut grass, I think back to our little $25 Frankenmower and that little patch of green we used to mow in the high desert.
If you would have told me then, that one day in the future, I would be considering the purchase of a $3,000 lawn mower, I’d have spit my Tecate out on you.
In New Mexico, I occasionally paid Mikey, the neighbor’s kid, $10 to cut the grass, just to help Mikey out, and free up my time for golf with the kids or something.
A decent zero turn mower costs around $3,000.
Let’s assume we’re back in New Mexico and I’m going to pay young Mikey $10 every time he mows my grass. $3,000 would cover the cost of 300 mowings by Mikey.
Let’s assume I asked Mikey to cut my lawn every two weeks whether it needed it or not (remember, this is the Godforsaken desert and the plants don’t get much love from Heaven above).
Let’s establish that the lawn mowing season lasts for about seven months — April through October. Mowing once every two weeks for seven months means Mikey will cut the lawn about 14 times a season. Even adjusting for inflation, the $3,000 I’m going to spend on a zero turn would cover the cost of having Mikey mow my grass twice a month for the next 20 years.
Granted, there’s not a Mikey in Oklahoma that’s going to to mow my Oklahoma expanse of grass, poison ivy, and greenbriar for $10.
The Sooner State is a different place than the desert for sure.
Making plants grow… literally everywhere… is pretty much God’s signature move in Oklahoma.
The grass never stops growing and I fear we’re always going to need a bigger mower.
Thanks for reading.
Stay safe (stay home).
Shop local (keep your distance).
Order takeout (eat local).
Hug the people you can… stay away from the people you can’t.