Feelin’ the ManongsBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
COOKEVILE, TN — The smell of freshly cut grass. The purr of a humming engine. The utter release of pollen and other known allergens into the placid air.
These are the sights and sound that accompany the tonic, which is lawn mowing. Mention this concept to anyone living beneath the clouds in Daly City and bewilderment ensues.
“Lawn mowing?... What the h**l is a lawn?”
Here, in a city of paved driveways and close-knit houses, the idea of cutting
grass is lost to most. Kids rarely consider it as a chore and most households rarely have the time or the patience to practice it. And I should know… I grew up here.
But my mommy doesn’t live in this D.C. She decided to pursue occupation closer to the other D.C., Washington D.C. Just drive west and south for a few hours and you’ll find us.
This is the South, an area where lawns happen to be much more commonplace.
Here, land is easier to come by and rain is much more frequent in occurrence.
Combine both factors and you easily get a recipe for really big, green, strong lawns.
And my mommy should know. Recently, she decided to buy a ranch, which in layman’s terms equals a house with a large front yard and a larger backyard.
In order to mow such a large yard, a new lawn mower should definitely be in order, and boy did we buy a beaut. Given such a machine with such voracious power and brute force, you’d think you be able to take on the world. Or at lest your yard.
That’s what I had thought anyways… when about to take on my mommy’s front yard. I presumed that there’s no way a bunch of tiny, thin grass stalks, even with their numbers, would be able to stop a steel blade toiling at who knows how many rpm.
There was just no way. Of course, this was ignorance from the sweet city of Daly City talking. Like I knew what I’m talking about.
From the get go, a sense of invincibility filled the air. With a crank of the stringy thingy, a black cloud of exhaust emerged from within its bowels, and after ten seconds, the rumblings of a grass-killing machine were finally attained.
Just by holding the shaky handle, the incredible power of the rotating blade could be felt, producing shivers within communities of grass stalks that lay nearby.
I sent the machine on its way, like a pirate on a mission, hacking everything and anything in my way. Grinding through root stubs and the like, nothing seemed to be able to stop the inevitable melee that was about to occur.
The resultant carnage of shivered up grass and weeds thrown to the side, could have made for another environmentalist’s worst nightmare. But I wasn’t an environmentalist. I could have cared less.
For the time being, that sense of invincibility beckoned me to believe I was on top of the world. But that was short lived.
Entering a jungle of grass at knee-high length, the engine started choking.
Invincibility waning? O, I hoped not.
The coughing continued; the lawn mower acting as if struck by some grassy form of pneumonia. It was now spitting out grassy lumps; its days of unyieldingly hacking up grass into fine pieces now behind it.
It seems that trying to chop a highly dense amount grass was jamming the outlet where cut grass was supposed to spew out. O well, I thought.
Then it happened. In a somewhat momentous but expected climax, the engine finally cut out, dying helpless in sea of grass.
The power of steel was finally put to shame; the lawn mower’s blade, once a force to be reckoned with, now became just a lowly piece of hardware brought down by a torrent of steadfast grass stubs.
I felt like I was suddenly placed in a junkyard; expect in this junkyard there was only one piece of junk: a used to be new Troy-built mower.
The struggle with the lawn soon became nauseating. Piles of hay, once at the mercy of the twirling blade, now avenged themselves, accumulating around the lawn mower, becoming so daunting that its very thickness became an obstacle to the small tires that plied over it.
Not only was the tires effected by this gross amount of hay, but the blade as well. Hay sneaked themselves within corners and crevasses inside the machine, immobilizing the blade by jamming it with a harden mass of slush grass.
And the sun’s presence didn’t help ease the situation either. Its constant roasting effect added with an influx of moisture, created an atmosphere of sticky humidity that seemed to arouse an army of mosquitoes that swirled around in a dizzying performance that could either make one crazy or one’s arms bloated, all at the same time.
By the time two hours had passed, only a tenth of front yard had been cut. I rested my arms on the lawn mower’s handle and realized then that this was going to be a very long day.
Now, I could complain and whine all I want. I mean, spending all day pivoting a lawn mower so it could breathe just to realize that within four days, that same grass would have overgrown itself, seemed futile at best.
But if any good came out of this, other than a nice well-maintained lawn, perhaps it was the fact that this experience made me think about the Manongs of the San Joaquin Valley.
Unlike me, this was something which they faced everyday. There was no turning back to get a Pepsi or go to an air conditioner like I did to rest for 30 minutes to regain strength. Through hours of backbreaking work, tirelessly fighting both exhaustion and the excruciating heat, they toiled onward, unfazed by the situation which seemed more hellish than good.
And it may never mean anything to someone reading a sentence of it or two in a history book, but obviously this was an experience impossible to fathom by just reading.
Words would never beat the real experience of actually trying it out, working in the fields, feeling pure exhaustion take over. Just the fact that they were able to endure through it all, made them special in their own rite.
And, as beads of sweat flowed from my forehead, all I’m left to say about their very experience could be summarized into two words.
Simply amazing. – PDM