The most useless crop we harvest.
Here in N. Texas, the wheat is just now turned gold, with the heavy heads on the stalks pointing like armies of weather vanes the direction of the wind. In a week or so, farmers in air-conditioned combines with iPods jacked into the stereo systems will come along and cut, thresh, and truck away the sweet yellow kernels, to be ground and processed into HoHos, microwave pizza crusts, and Chef Boyardee Spaghetti-O noodles.
God bless America.
But for every farmer harvesting a few sections* of wheat, there are a thousand or more clerks, cops, and pole dancers harvesting their own crops in their front yards. While occasionally that crop may contain edibles such as dandelions, onion, nettle, rye, and clover, it is typically wasted by either being left on the ground or bagged and discarded. Sure, some hippies and Martha Stewart wanna-bes may actually compost it, but for the most part, it's a wasteful proposition.
I speak, of course, to the issue of grass.
The American Dream seems to include owning a home. We pity those who must reside in multi-family dwellings, unless they're penthouse apartments with names like "Phillip Drummond" on the mail box, or with a manservant named Mr. French. But there's a catch. If you want the house and a yard, you must tend the grounds. There is thus a running joke among home owners that they all gave up their weekends when they purchased a house.
Pity most the house renter, who does not even enjoy the privileges of ownership, but must keep up the house and yard that he occupies. As a renter, he is not likely to feel that it is worth investing in higher-quality lawn maintenance equipment, and thus he toils in the yard with substandard, often badly used and abused, mowers and trimmers.
I am now a house renter. And I found in the back yard, after some searching amongst waist-high weeds, an old mower. I bent my back toward the task of making it run, but after an afternoon, many calories, and all of my vocabulary of curse words had been expended, I admitted defeat; I could not get it to stay running.
So we bought a used mower, for $20. I mowed the yard a few times with it, but really-- we got what we paid for it. It too failed.
And finally, with weeds and grass getting to an embarrassing level (we do have Code Enforcement in this town, and I was about to become the object of its attention), I said to my wife: "Enough. I'm a grown-ass man. I don't need anyone else's second-hand mowers. Not anymore." And I went to Sears, and bought a Craftsman Easy Walk push mower with a new Briggs & Stratton 6.75hp 4 stroke engine ("NOTE: Not to be sold in California!") with a mere 21" cutting blade, but with rear-wheel-drive variable speed self-propulsion, optional bagging/mulching/side-discharge, self-cleaning feature with hookup for the hose to the deck, and (wow!) electric key start with pull-cord backup. Complete with recharger cord for the on-board battery, dust-free grass-catching bag, and a quart of oil to put into it. With a moment's hesitation, I bought the 3 year warranty. I'm hard on lawn mowers.
It didn't last the day.
I got that bad boy running with the first little turn of the key. I slew weeds and grass alike in all directions, until I went through a particularly arduous chunk of heavy green, and... "CHUNK."
I backed out, cleared the blades, dumped the grass from the full bag (why the hell was I bagging this? My wife had visions of a compost pile...), and turned the key. It merrily spun away, without catching. I checked the spark plug wire. I spun it again. I checked the blade. Was it bent that way before? Heck, I don't know. I took it off, and pounded it flatter. I put it back on. It still didn't start. "It's not supposed to be this hard," I thought as the ninety-something degree sun beat down on my dusty, sweaty back. And then it struck me: it's not that hard. I bought this bad boy today. At a reputable retail joint.
I loaded the mower and it's accouterments into the back of the car. I drove back into town. I went to the register at Sears, and told them what happened. Their eyes widened. "Do you have your receipt?" they asked. Of course I did. "We'll send some guys out to your car to get the mower," they said. "Do you want cash or credit?"
"I want a mower," I responded. "And frankly, I have to believe that this was a fluke. Just give me another one of the same kind."
I was out of there in 10 minutes, with a new mower. I'll say this for Sears-- they back their Craftsman line, with no questions. That kind of service is probably what's keeping Sears' head above water.
I'm charging the battery fully now. We'll see how this goes.
*A "section" is a unit of land that is 1 mile square, and is composed of 640 acres. ** Thus, if we know that a mile is 5280 feet long, we can easily derive the square footage of an acre ((5280^2)/640). It would be a better world if everyone knew these things.
**Edited to remove incorrect statement.