The Mowing Had To Wait; So What?

Last Monday, we finally got caught up with our mowing.

But in the field below the pond, the zero-turn mower left mud-brown tracks even though the blades of grass were fully dried from two consecutive days of sunshine and warm temperatures.

The water that moistened those tracks was from the blown-out remnants of Hurricane Florence, supplemented by our usual September rains we get hereabouts.

It was a full two weeks ago that Florence kissed us with nearly 3 inches of rain and then some. Still, the six acres we mow was still squishy. We mowed our sloping hillsides as they dried, but had to leave the soggy bottoms for last.

As I mowed, I thought of Florence, and of the Carolinas.

Where we have quickly fading tire tracks, those areas still have muck and mire.

Much of the land in those states is called the “Low Country,” and for good reason. It isn’t quite a delta, but it sure isn’t the 1,200 feet and more above sea level that shoves our soil toward the sun.

“How are those people ever going to get cleaned up?” I mused.

I have lived through perhaps a dozen serious floods. Happily, none soaked the living quarters of our houses, most of which were on hillsides. But we have had to muck out basements that turned into mini-creeks. The water came into the basements via the uphill side and sloshed around until it drained out the downhill side. I remember donning hip waders and using coal shovels to scoop and lift the muck away from the whitewashed stones that formed the cellars of my childhood home. The scraping freed the water to gurgle through the downhill stones until more grit and gunk came in from the uphill walls.

Those cut stone walls were porous, on purpose.

Old-timers knew well that water will either find its way through stones or, if dammed up, will eventually exert enough force to move those stones and collapse foundations.

Water-filled basements were less catastrophic than shifted foundation stones, so we had both formal “weep holes” designed to drain off water, and informal cracks and crannies that, if kept clear, would assist.

But once the water had exited, either through drainage or with the assistance of sump pumps, we could start to get back to normal.

In DuBois, our house was on a flat chunk of valley, not a hillside. Our back yard bordered on a creek, the normally placid Pentz Run. That gave us a different perspective on flooding.

Twice in 1996, in January and again in July, we sat helplessly in our kitchen with the basement door open, watching the floodwaters from Pentz Run swallow the stairway one step at a time Happily, our living quarters were spared. In January, we had two steps left when the water stopped rising; in July, we could see just one step.

In the Carolinas, some people had water in the second floor areas of their homes, or in the rafters of their attics, as Florence pounded the area.

If our yard is still mucky, what must it still be like in the Carolinas? Or elsewhere?

In Indonesia last week, an earthquake and tsunami turned solid soil into water, completely liquefying it, while people were standing on it.

I can’t comprehend the misery associated with ripping one’s living quarters down to studs, hauling the waterlogged mess outside, with little or no solid ground on which to place it, with mosquitoes and the stink of sewage adding to the misery.

I could not allow myself to grumble about having to wait to cut some grass.

The grass on the breast of the pond grows vigorously. I had to cut it twice, once with the mower deck set on high, then again at normal cutting height. That took, what? An extra 20 minutes and maybe a half-gallon of gasoline, with me sitting on my butt the entire time, not even needing to walk behind a non-riding motorized mower.

There are folks who cannot, even now, get back into their Carolina homes nearly a month after Florence came ashore Sept. 16. Others spend day after dreary day wearing mold-blocking masks, latex gloves, high boots, dealing with slivers and splinters attendant on smashing drywall, yanking nails, shoveling the stuff into wheelbarrows or onto tarps and getting it outside.

And that does not even start the work of reinstalling flooring, wiring, and walls.

In our area, October’s falling temperatures will limit me to one more mower ride across our grassy land before frosts, freezes and flurries drive me to drain the gasoline from their engines and crank up the snow blower.

Last Monday, we got caught up with our mowing.

The blessing is that mowing was all we had to worry about.

¯¯¯

Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email:

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