Abject Squalor by Mike Baron

ABJECT SQUALOR

My late wife chose the house in which we live. When we moved in, the front and back yards were perfect, watered regularly by an underground, automated watering system. If you want to have a lawn in Colorado, this is what you do. Because most of Colorado is a desert. And the rest is mountains. Yet everyone has a lawn. And the city’s lawns are the most glorious of all, because they don’t care how much they spend. Many a time I’ve driven past city water sprinklers during a heavy rain storm as they direct their stream to the middle of the road. I once notified the Parks Department that their sprinklers were falling on asphalt. Nothing has changed.

The West is all about the water, who owns it, who controls it. Now you might think nobody owns the water. You would be wrong. Certain land rights carry water rights, grandfathered from the days of the Conestoga wagon, if the land contains a stream or river. Some states (not Colorado) have outlawed the collection of rain water in barrels.

Lawns are reasonable for the Upper Midwest and the South, where rain falls steadily. They make little sense in a desert. You want to solve Los Angeles’ water problem? Tell all those stars to stop watering their lawns. And build some more dams!

But their problems are not my problems. My problems are the dogs.

Enter Freddie. One day I heard Freddie laughing and barking in the back yard. He was tearing up the underground watering system. Not a nip here and there, no. He ripped up entire sections and chewed them to suet. The other dogs. Soon there was nothing left of my backyard watering system. I could do what I do in the front yard, which has its own problems. Drag the sprinklers out twice a week and water.

Then came the rabbits. Their urine destroyed the front lawn, and if the front lawn isn’t nice, the home owners’ association sends a SWAT squad. I carefully scraped up the dead spots, applied gypsum, seed, and covered it with fresh topsoil. It rained for three days straight. I watered every day for a week. The result? A desultory handful of blades. I am waiting. I am watching. And when the time is right, I shall try again. Not for me the terraforming and chemicals of the modern professional lawn grower! No. If I can’t raise it itself, it doesn’t deserve to live.

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