Spring is coming. It�s coming in fits and starts, but it�s on the way, and that means one horribly depressing inevitable thing: lawn mowing season.
It�s still pretty cold here in North Carolina, but we�ve had enough weird warm spurts that the grass has been fooled into growing. I ignore it. The height of grass means nothing to me until the neighbors start throwing polite reminders tied to rocks through my windows. But my wife notices. She�s from a Southern family with a long, sacrosanct tradition of women never mowing lawns. That�s what husbands are for: mowing grass, taking out the trash, fixing broken stuff, as well as helping with the laundry, the dishes, the vacuuming and every other dang job regardless of traditional gender roles until I could just run amok and start breaking furniture and doing a tribal man-dance around a bonfire in the living room while�well, that�s another story, best told after I find a good psychiatrist or lawyer.
Anyway, last Saturday afternoon I was going through my usual routine, smoking in my big chair, reading, watching Monty Python and occasionally moving to the couch for a short nap before returning to my chair for another pipe. It�s a tough regimen, but I�ve built my skills over many years of perseverance. My wife came into the living room and looked out the front window. �The grass is getting pretty high,� she said. �It�s this screwy weather,� I said. �The next hailstorm will beat it back down.� She walked out. Then she walked back in. �You know, that yard is looking kind of ragged. There�re probably snakes out there.� �Yeah,� I said. She walked out.
She walked back in. �All of our neighbors have already mowed,� she said. �It�s February,� I said. �Mowing before May is bad for the soil substrata. It depletes the nitrogenized root system loam undercoating.� �That�s what you said last year,� she said with that Bobby-Fisher-about-to-say-�checkmate� look I hate. �The guys at Home Depot say that�s a bunch of hogwash.� Uh-oh. Time to parry the attack. �You�re hanging out with Home Depot guys now?� I asked. �Is that where you go Wednesday nights when you say you�re at church?� �I�ve been thinking,� she said, �that it would be best if you didn�t smoke in the house any more. The drapes are starting to smell bad.� Gambit declined. �I think,� I said, �that I�ll mow the lawn.�
Two hours later she materialized behind me as I stood at the pipe cabinet. �The grass is still the same height,� she said. �I�ll mow, but I need the right pipe.� �What about this one?� �For yard work? I�d cry if I dropped that.� �Well, what about this?� �That�s got a taper bit; I need a saddle bit for outdoor work.� �OK, how about this one?� I didn�t realize she knew the difference between a taper and a saddle. She�s a crafty one. �The humidity is too high for that pipe. I need a real dry smoker.� �Well, you better hurry. It�ll be dark soon.�
An hour later she was back. �Still deciding on a pipe?� she asked. �No, choosing a tobacco now. I have to find the right blend to harmoniously complement the current pollen conditions.� I looked out the window. �Oh, drat,� I said. �It�s dark already. Mowing will have to wait.�
She pulled a sandblasted Lovat from the cabinet, one of my favorite pipes. She has unerring instincts. �Is this a good pipe?� �That old thing?� I said. �Naw, it�s trash. I only keep it around to scratch between my shoulder blades.� She nodded knowingly and tucked the pipe into her pocket. �Mow the lawn and you can have it back.� �But woman,� I said, �it�s pitch black outside.� She shook her head. �The lawn gets mowed or the pipe goes down the disposal.�
And that, my pipe-smoking friends, is how an otherwise sane man ends up duct-taping a Coleman lantern to his push mower and mowing the lawn at 9 p.m. PT