The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Budd McLaughlin

July 12, 2012

WWIII: The war on weeds

— How hot is it at your house?

Well, it’s probably the same as it is at mine — Hot with a capital “H.”

I’ve never been a big fan of summer in the South, and this year is no different. Have you heard it’s supposed to be 105 degrees on Sunday? Yes, 105.

It’s been so hot and dry, I actually decided to water my front yard last week. After spending no less than 20 minutes trying to hook up a sprinkler left behind by the home’s previous owners, I turned the water on full blast.

My moment of accomplishment was doused, however, when the rotating sprinkler nozzle turned in my direction and a powerful stream of water made direct contact with my face. After deciding to move out of the way, I pondered how much water it would take to cover a patch of Bermuda grass measuring less than half the size of The News Courier’s newsroom.

My next-door neighbor, whose yard is always green and lush, leaves his sprinkler on for hours at the time. He also intentionally set fire to his entire yard over the spring. As it turns out, he knew what he was doing.

Deciding our small parcel of grass and weeds was not worth the expense, I decided to water for only 45 minutes or so. And while I briefly thought about setting my yard ablaze, I worried I’d end up burning the neighborhood down.

The day after watering, I walked out on the front porch and saw a dust cloud overhead and a tumbleweed blow across the driveway. The sight was accompanied by menacing whistling, the sound of spurs and a man in an overloaded Model-T asking directions to California.

The grass has been the only thing the wife and I have spent any real energy on this year. After our colossal gardening failures of last summer, we decided we were more hanging basket and green grass kind of people. When the flowers die, we throw them out and buy more. It’s a simple solution, really.

Over the fall and winter, our yard was invaded by warring factions of weeds. Leading the charge was Gen. Crabgrass and Col. Dandelion.

Worried the peaceful nation of Bermuda was being outgunned, we declared war. We went to Walmart, where I purchased a $20 bag of feed and seed and one of those seed-spreader things.

As of this writing, the bag of feed and seed remains unopened and the seed spreader thing remains in mint condition. Afraid we’d end up killing the grass instead of helping it, we called in a professional.

“You’ve got a bad weed problem,” the professional said early one morning as he surveyed the turf.

I knew it was awful, but I played the ignorant homeowner, which I am.

“You think so? That’s strange.”

The professional wasted no time getting down to business and proceeded to use a variety of implements and chemicals on our 15-by-15 field in an effort to defeat the enemy. He spread white pellets of fertilizer and engaged in hand-to-weed combat using a canister and spray hose.

“Is that stuff pet friendly?” I asked.

“I guess so,” he said. “Ain’t heard of it hurting no dog yet.”

Well, that seemed assuring.

The professional has come back one more time since. And while it appears the war is not over, the enemy is certainly on the run. The heat and drought, however, have allowed the weeds time to strengthen its regime.

Weeds, like most of man’s mortal enemies, are not affected by extreme conditions.

I probably need to water more, but I don’t want to be the guy responsible for a forced water ration in Madison. I can almost imagine what the letters from the water department would say:

“Dear customer, we regret to inform you that your water usage for the rest of the summer will be limited to two gallons per day. Sadly, some jerk decided his 15-by-15 patch of grass was worth more than your personal hygiene. If you would like to discuss this matter with him further, his address and phone number are printed below.”

After all I’ve been through with the yard, the thought of thousands of armed, smelly Madisonians trampling across my Bermuda would honestly be more than I could take. That said, I’ll continue to talk sweetly to the grass, leave the weed war to the professional and pray for rain.

Won’t you join me?


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Budd McLaughlin

What is your favorite Easter candy?

Chocolate bunnies
Marshmallow chicks
Chocolate eggs with filling
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