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That's one way to Annihilate your tall grass

| Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The image of a row of conformist, look-alike suburban men mowing their pristine lawns on weekend mornings strikes me as silly. Grass, I've always thought, is something that just grows, and trying to control it is as futile as herding cats. But with 271 feet of frontage to deal with, I've slowly become concerned with, well, whether or not my lawn is green, even and enviable to the neighbors.

Without the time or inclination to mow it myself, I hired a local landscaping team who assured me of the finest quality lawn care. The two men performed an admirable job for the first two summers, showing up without prompting and leaving the long, slanted yard resembling a golf course.

Until technology intervened.

One day, I peered from my home-office window to catch the crew unloading what looked like a cross between a hovercraft and giant circular saw.

"Check this baby out," one landscaper boasted. "We call this baby the Annihilator, and she can cut your entire lawn in five minutes!"

I don't know about you, but I desire my lawn to be caressed, sculpted or even trimmed. But Annihilated• Maybe not, but after the smoke had cleared, the lawn looked as if a field test for a new Abrams tank had taken place.

The crew was fired before I could repair the damage caused by a 300-pound standing mower, and it took two consecutive years of planting, feeding and watering before my yard ceased looking like a no-man's land. My wife, the unrepentant environmentalist, insisted for the planet's sake that I buy an old-fashioned push mower, but I resented both her inference that I need more exercise and the thought of losing all my Sundays to grass cutting.

In time, I hired another landscaper, this one besotting my heart by arriving with an ordinary gas-powered mower and a set of hedge trimmers. When he left, my lawn had the uniformity and closeness of a Marine Corps haircut, and I recall thinking, "This was a match made in gardener's heaven."

Until last week.

My guy was back at work, the buzz of his mower's engine thrumming through an open window. I headed outside and soon wished I hadn't. There, cutting broad, muddy swaths through my fragile grass was another Annihilator, steered by a grinning landscaper blissfully unaware of the damage he'd done.

Although he understands less English than your average minor-league baseball team, I managed to communicate that the Transformer with the multiple blades would have to go. He seemed disappointed and even angry, but in my opinion, he got off easy. My wife didn't hand him a push mower.

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