Having been married more years than I care to reveal, let me tell you that during our marital partnership we’ve only argued about two things: 1) the number of raisins per cubic inch in bread pudding. My minimum requirement is five and she ranges from three to four. And once in a while I down a hefty forkful and after swallowing realize
with horror that I didn't chew a single raisin. And 2) leaves - the kind that fall in your yard and according to wifey, must be raked up in piles and deposited in the gutter for city pickup: Huntsville, a beautiful city decorated by stately trees, but cursed with their leaves in Autumn. To summarize, sixty years of bliss interrupted by approximately six raisin disputes and one leaf discussion a year. Every year for sixty years!!
I must admit that we once argued about a member of her family who thought we were a dandy and cheaper alternative to a room at the local Hilton. I won that one by adding 50% to the price of the local Hilton.
So, over many years I’ve acquired some skills in debating - except for the annual leaf argument. I really won only once when I paid a homeless drunk a half-used bottle of 40-proof Burgundy to sub for me behind the rake. I can’t count that as victory though, because her view that leaves should be raked prevailed.
The discussion is boringly identical every year: “Look, the yard is full of leaves.”
My answer is clever - even scientific - and never works. “I read in a Harvard study by a Yard Scientist, a new field of study, that it’s good for the grass.”
“I’d like to see that study.”
“I lost it.”
Next, I try to impress upon her the immensity, the impossibility of the task. “Do you know how many leaves there are on your average Oak tree? Don’t you understand that as I rake, say ten leaves, ten more are in the air and ten times 10,000 more are on that leaf factory we call an Oak tree. And every time I create a substantial pile of
leaves, the wind that plucks the leaves off the tree is scattering my pile all over the yard.
“And the Harvard study that I lost. . .,” I try to continue. She Just retrieves the rake that I’ve thrown across the yard, with a one-word reply, “Here”. And during our conversation the tree - whose objective is to drown us in leaves - has released more battalions of green paratroopers. It’s impossible. I’m on a backwards treadmill. But there is one great hope that sustains me - that soothes my aching shoulders and arms. The wind. Oh, for a brisk, 40-knot wind from the South Southeast that will dump my leaves on my neighbor’s yard and not hit the yard of my other neighbor (we live in a circle) who is South of me. A narrowly-armed Northwest Zephyr that blesses me only - that’s what I need.
If you can out-argue the wife and pray hard enough at bedtime for that precise 40-knot breeze that you need, you can watch the ball game instead of pulling a rake through a weed carpet of a yard. Delay - a slow strategic retreat to put it in military terms - will often avoid two hours of old-fashioned rural labor - the kind our ancestors fled from - in an unheated yard. Tired and cold and no end in sight - exactly what the Great American Dream avoided. I need only one of three things: 1) an automated, you-sit-in-the-den-and-watch-the-game Rake Robot, 2) that homeless wanderer who needs an alcoholic lift and doesn’t know the minimum wage has been raised from 50 cents an hour, or 3) a yard with no trees, which means I’d have to remove five Maples that reach to the sky. No good. Chopping down trees with my steak knife (my only equipment besides that lousy rake) would exceed the energy requirement of my raking assignment.
Of course, there is one horrid fourth alternative - an all out nuclear solution - get rid of the wife and find a sweet, young thing who has read that Harvard study. Nah, I’ll wait for that precise wind that piles up all my leaves in my neighbor’s yard.
But I’m not worried. If science has figured out watermelons without seeds, onions that don’t make your eyes water, and lean cows without fat - well, how long before they invent trees without leaves.
The humor of Ted, the Scribbler on the Roof, appears in newspapers around the U.S., on National Public Radio in Huntsville, Alabama and numerous web sites.