Back in April, which is National Lawn Care Month, my wife and I learned that America is a nation with 30 million acres of lawns.

It makes sense that our proud country would set aside an entire month, like Ramadan, to venerate the lawn, because Americans love their lawns. Normally my wife and I would be indifferent to lawn news, but it happened to come at the same time we received the diagnosis that we had a troubled lawn. That must be why they say April is the cruelest month.

Let’s face it, lawn care is what you do when you don’t have any real problems. They don’t have lawn care in Burkina Faso or crabgrass in Chad or chickweed in Darfur.  Folks making athletic shoes for $1 a day in Ho Chi Minh City are not talking Scotts Turf Builder around the Weber Grill on Saturday night. Places where they have dengue fever, Ebola, Chagas, West Nile virus and Guinea Worm, they don’t do lawn care. TruGreen ChemLawn is strictly First World.

In my neighborhood, we have lawn-atics and lawn rangers. We also have people who neglect and abuse their lawn. We even have traditionalists who still cut their own lawns with a hand mower. How Ozzie and Harriet is that? 

Americans may not have a class system but we have other codes and the lawn is one of them. In the glens of Glen Burnie, you get a different cut of lawn, so to speak, than you do in the glyns of Glyndon.

In the City of Charm, some citizens eschew the traditional lawn and instead roll out the green carpet, covering the property with a member of the indoor/outdoor carpet family. It requires no maintenance other than a good hosing and it remains as green as the fairways at Augusta year-round.

And what of lawn ornaments? Ceramic elves festooning the greensward say to the passer-by, “Country roads take me home. …” Plastic pink flamingos, once very blue collar, now signal a kind of arch whimsy, a sort of wink. Half a bathtub sheltering the Virgin of Guadalupe or the Infant of Prague means one thing; a life-size plastic whitetail deer means another. And a life-size St. Francis of Assisi, with optional bird feeder, means still another. Planting native grasses and other plants and letting them grow naturally telegraphs to your neighbors that you wear socks and sandals. Home Protected by Wiccans!

By the lawn ye shall know the lawn owner. It’s all in the Bible, friends. Actually, there is no mention of the lawn in the Bible. Think about that.

What about lawn games? Cricket? Croquet? Tennis, anyone? Golf? Golf is the greatest celebration of the lawn there is. Golf courses are shrines to the lawn. Every homeowner wants to look out on something resembling the fairways at Pebble Beach or Shinnecock. This produces lawn vanity. Neighbors are, yes, green with envy. Covet thy neighbor’s wife? Not so much. Covet thy neighbor’s lawn? Afraid so.

I long thought myself above all of this. But I now covet my neighbor’s lawn. I admit it. And it all stems from being the victim of discrimination by a lawn care provider. 
I called last spring when we noticed our lawn was looking weary. The secretary said the owner would call me. But he never did. I later learned that my lawn had been singled out as “beyond help.” I called another service.

Enter Ernest, certified lawn care analyst. Ernest, who certainly was earnest, conducted a 14-point “free” analysis. He noted on the point-by-point worksheet that he could find no trace of powdery mildew (an enormous relief as it runs in my family), no trace of necrotic ring spot, fairy ring, brown patch or leaf spot. None of the so-called “problem grasses” were in evidence, either. No quackgrass, foxtail or crabgrass. Further analysis showed no thistle, knotweed, red sorrel or bindweed on the premises.

That was the good news.

The bad news? The reason Ernest noted no evidence of noxious weeds or problem grasses was that my lawn was the lawn of the dead. Ernest said this might have something to do with the fact that the Wye Oak’s first cousin looms over my front yard, producing enough shade to kill anything.

He went on to note that there were no dandelions. (Dandelions even grow at Chernobyl!) He also added that no insects plagued my lawn. (That’s because there’s nothing for them to eat, Ernest.) Ernest’s proposal, which I studied at length, involved applying many, many chemicals. Oddly, no seeding was necessary. Chemicals would do the trick.

The precise concoction was not specified but it cost $42.50 per application. Ernest said we would need many applications. And we must keep the cats off the lawn after treatments or they would glow in the dark.

Well, I’m not Rachel Carson, but I wasn’t sure about that. How could I have a lush and lovely green lawn without planting grass seed? Ernest demurred. I needed to trust the experts. I declined. Ernest called repeatedly but I would not commit.
Then Ernest started to play rough. He mailed me graphic color photographs of beautiful lawns. I almost called the postal inspector, I was so disgusted. Lawn porno. How sick is that? 

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