THE REAL DIRT

Every October I look forward to having my ugly weed-infested backyard lawn hidden beneath a blanket of brilliant autumn leaves and in the spring I hate to watch the last snowdrifts melt to reveal the tattered remains of what was once a respectable stretch of greenery.

Years ago that lawn would have reminded a golfer of a decent fairway. Now it’s more like the rough, and in some spots, resembles the bunker’s sand trap.

Professional lawncare companies were eager to take on the recovery job along with their large monthly fees, but when I complained later about my unimproved wasteland, they recommended I buy what would amount to a new backyard, or at least the top six inches thereof.

Wanting an unbiased opinion, I sent two soil samples to a government agency for analysis, labelling them “upper” and “lower” since I live on a hill. Two weeks later I received a curious reply: “Dear Mr. Newman: This soil evaluation center is very busy this time of year and we do not appreciate your prank. We sometimes recommend misdemeanor charges in extremely disruptive cases like this which result in the waste of analyses time and taxpayers’ money.

“However, your samples have aroused quite a bit of controversey among our staff members. If you will come clean promptly and reveal the actual sources of your two samples, we will not press charges.

“Apparently you are a well-traveled and, unfortunately, a mischevious person. Opinions here on the source of your so-called ‘Upper’ soil sample range from the Sahara to the Mojave Deserts. The Sahara proponents cite evidence of dromedary camel droppings whereas the Mojave group insist those are merely bighorn sheep deposits. One staffer swears there is an Australian Gibson Desert involvement because of unmistakeable Red kangeroo clues.

“Your ‘Lower’ soil sample has created the more difficult controversy with a time-consuming debate between the Everglades Group and the Okefenokee Swampers. I won’t detail the conflicting claims of fauna evidence but you must have been quite fearless to collect samples in one of these feeding grounds of alligators, water moccasins and panthers.

“So far there have been no injuries here, only heated debates, but I beg you to reveal the actual sources of your samples so we can return to our assigned mission. Sincerely, F.X. McHumus, Supervisor.”

I replied immediately with a copy of the lawn company’s depressing report and apologized for causing a misunderstanding. Unless a traveling circus caravan passed through my property one night, I wrote, I cannot explain the evidence of exotic animals and asked that they just drop my case.

I am now considering other options. I like the idea of a brilliant green Astroturf cover and I might pay the extra price for white end zone lines.

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