The white man is crazy. I say it fairly frequently these days- or think it. It’s the answer to lots of conversational ploys. If folks want to talk about politics (I give that subject about 30 seconds of play), if they want to talk about global warming (maybe one minute), or all that crazy stuff they sell at the grocery store (I think that was a conversation I had with myself) the conversation stopper, or efficient wrap up, whichever you prefer, is: the white man is crazy. Try it!

I stumbled upon this particular mantra whilst working on my last house. In short, there were three houses to clear after my father died, and then I fixed one up to sell so I could move here. Why did I want to move? I discovered the house I inherited was not private enough for me.

I lived a couple blocks away from the courthouse at the top of the hill

Who would have thought there was any house in Crystal Falls, MI where one would feel the angst of public exposure? Population 1,469 in 2010, and by the way: a lot of people have died since then. That is a wry joke. Deaths include a couple of my family members. The house I inherited and worked on for a couple of years was my great aunt’s, and she was 100 years old when she passed on to that place where mowing is not required.

Because here’s why I was repeating the mantra today; I was mowing the lawn. It’s Memorial Day weekend in small town America, and that means it’s time to start some two cycle engines. Or electric motors, battery operated or otherwise. The tension has been building for a month now; will the chain saw (mower in my case) start? Or will I have to take it to those awesome guys at US-2 Rentals, who can fix the stuff pictured above?

Yes, the sound of the chain saw and the odor of gas grills (it used to be lighter fluid) waft upon the breeze, and our facial muscles create that tense, complex configuration we call a smile, since we know that summer is close at hand. This morning a mechanical buzz struck close while I sat outside eating my poached egg and toast. My next door neighbor’s father or whatever (a man vaguely of baby-boom membership, while the neighbors are 30ish) was close cutting the grass on my side of the uphill lot with a weed whacker, his arm sweeping in graceful expert arcs, sunny dandelion heads flying in all directions like so many royal noggins at the height of the French revolution.

It’s a bit like this, without the nice stones.

This guy should have been a barber, maybe. And/or he has a wearying lot of energy. I cast an invisible suspicious eye upon him, because the house is, again, uphill from me, and thus the building site is terraced. My driveway is boundaried by the first rather steep terrace that rises to the house next door, and there grows a vertical wall-o-weeds (mostly grass, nothing obnoxious), MY wall-o-weeds, between my driveway and that terrace he was giving a vigorous buzz cut to. AND… one day last summer, he snuck down with his buzz cutter while I was gone and gave a haircut to my little driveway hillside. That’s MY vegetation, to cut- or not! The crazy white man again.

Anyhoos, yeah, I interpreted this behavior as insolence. And I am now on guard for this behavior which, I assume, he will not repeat when I am in evidence. Good thing I took my egg outside, I said to meself. Apparently his weed whacker got away from him that one day; weed whackers have a way of doing that. They definitely have minds of their own.

After spending a large part of my day vigorously upgrading the front of my house, I walked back around to the terraced side of the lot and fired up the lawn mower. After watching next door man do the buzz cut this morning, I was somewhat surprised to then hear a riding mower roar into life on the uphill chunk of property. The previously whacked out grass was now being finely honed, bless his heart; polished, if you will.

Meanwhile, I was mowing my lawn with something they call a push mower these days- a gas driven one. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, people used to call a mower a push mower when you actually pushed it. Nobody does that anymore, except for my oldest son. However, in my favor I present an important piece of evidence; my son’s lawn is level, and mine is anything but.

There really are lawn mowing obstacle courses! Theses wimps are on flat ground. Ha! And no tree branches either. A riding mower would probably turn over and kill me in my yard.

I do, in fact, end up pushing my mower at times. Mowing my lawn is like running an obstacle course while chasing- or pushing- an easy 100 lbs of machinery, ergonomically designed for someone a foot taller than myself. There are those rare moments of level ground; I don’t want to sound like a whiner. But generally speaking, it’s like mowing a skate board park. A skate board park with low lying fir and spruce branches that you have to duck under and/or disentangle from the mower handle should the approach angle fail.

Every time I mow the lawn, then, I not only tend to repeat the mantra, but I also get up in my head about the low branches, which, due to an extreme snow load this last winter, are apparently even lower than they were last year. Sigh. The reason they are still there is, that these low branches are my protection-from-the-public factor. Though I live on 1/4 acre of property in a small town, thanks to the trees, there’s a lot I can do without anyone BELOW me seeing.

The reason I left the last house was that as soon as I stepped outside of my door, I was on stage. There was no buffer. Not a tree on the lot. And there were two brothers with unusual mental capacity who cruised the neighborhood instigating extremely repetitive social interactions. They made my days feel like a skipping record, bless their hearts.

I bet this guy is not concerned about his underwear on the line.
This guy is his opposite, right? Mr. Clean Machine! I’m sure he would slow passing cars down around here. The internet is all about not hurting the trees. No consideration for the trees hurting the flesh and blood mower! Notice the romantic white couple planting in the background. They will soon be crazy, if they’re not already- if they live in the U.P.

Let me just say that I knew I made the correct choice in purchasing my home when I felt I could hang my unmentionables on the line. Not like I do it in an obvious way, such as putting one clothes pin on the left side of the waist and another on the right. I am an experienced hanger of clothes and know better than that. I had resorted to separating out the unmentionables, at my last abode. And then you’re faced with covert removal from the bathroom towel rack when you have an impromptu guest. If it’s not one thing it’s another.


When I moved here, though, the unmentionables went up along with the rest, as surreptitiously as possible- and I knew I was home. I admit to being somewhat myopic, and I don’t wear glasses except for driving and going to the theater, etc. So perhaps I am deluded as to who sees my undies. Works for me. Point to all that is; though I come out of my mowing expeditions with arm gouges and fir needles in my bra, I shall probably leave that particular pokey obstacle on the course.

Apparently homeowners associations get flack for banning clotheslines.

So yeah; the white man is crazy. What with their mowers and weed whackers and secret undies and seemingly unending house repairs and maintenance and collections of stuff they have no room for. If that doesn’t make you crazy enough, here in the U. P. we have deer. They are on a mission, avenging for their murdered relatives. Typical demise is due to corn addiction (lazy hunters lure deer to their death), or underestimating the white man’s metal chariots.

Deer survivors have committees that organize raids on yard plantings optimistic citizens have created by the sweat of their brow and the lightening of their wallets. Required are digging, hauling fertilizer, driving the old chariot to the nurseries, and purchasing ornamentals. Nobody here is dumb enough to imagine they can have a vegetable garden without a deer proof fence, though dogs can be a very effective deterrent. However, aside from the veggies, we want to decorate around the trees, along the walk, and whatnot.

As hope springs eternal, the lover of trees and flowers is annually led on by authoritative labels on nursery stock (“Deer proof”, or the more recently politic “Deer resistant”) to try again, year after year. Or maybe, you used to live somewhere else (like Crystal Falls), and the deer did not touch your iris, or your peonies, your evening primroses, your chives, etc. But just choose a new ‘hood, set out those plants, and- wait for it, wait for it… CRUNCH!

Peonies? Iris? Not. Haven’t tried bleeding heart here. I moved my lily-of-the-valley out of harm’s way just after mowing, since it was being systematically eradicated…

Just when you were sure you would actually see and smell flowers, so you could configure your face muscles in response, the deer send out the adolescents who are still experimenting with drugs, and the experienced does who have done special ops training, to casually rip the tops off your ornamentals in the dawning light. The does’ training includes being able to distinguish the more expensive plants, thus making sure to exact the most effective counterblow for the tribe. I think the deer here are capable of eating almost all my ornamentals because there’s a cemetery nearby. That’s where they hold the elite training program, scheduled for right around Memorial Day. They probably award some sort of Purple Heart for deer that eat artificial flowers.

Ah yes… the good old pre-lawn mower days…

From greenhouse, to flower bed (or gravesite), to deer gut, and back to the nursery to try again; and the white man is now even crazier up in this neighborhood. The guy who only polishes grass is probably saner than most. And then you have the neighbors who INTENTIONALLY feed the deer…

Well the moral of the story is, that all God’s critturs have their own idea of how and what to cut. And sure, the white man is crazy. That’s nothing new. However, our craziness is fun sometimes, as evidenced by the fact that the technology and other culture said craziness engenders, is desired virtually world wide. Our craziness is wildly unnatural, but then again, it’s full of creative verve and expensive, innovative solutions.

Yup- we all used to do this

Due to this seemingly innate ability to come up with expensive solutions, the day of actually pushing a mower went out with teenage boys doing yard work for college fees. If I gave the dude next door a rotary mower to replace his weed whacker and riding mower, he would style me crazy. I think if you asked, the deer would tell you that, now they’ve tasted hybrid roses, there’s no going back to chomping tough grass and bitter spruce buds.

Deer like to hang out in the cemetery; let the crazy white people cut the grass!

If I told them they would have a better life back in the woods, being shy wild animals that venture not near highways and lazy hunters, they would decline. Their special ops division would have to fold. Their fawns would be deprived of the opportunity to savor expensive hybrids bred in the four corners of the world, the Cervidae version of watching the cooking channel. So, when the sunny day is infiltrated by the sound of motors and engines, of chain saws and dirt bikes and chippers and sanders and weed whackers and leaf blowers, let’s all doff our hats and take a moment to laugh insanely. Then fill the tank, pull the starter, and shave some lawn.