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The Grass Killers

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Dad liked to sit on the back deck and see a lush, green wave of grass spilling down the hill. Without fail, by end of summer the green wave turned to brown and had to be replanted.
Looking back, if I was being honest, there was not one but four reasons why we had to rake the backyard every fall then replant seed. The reasons would be my three brothers and me. And what we did to kill the grass may surprise you.

If snow or ice was gonna fall on Flamingo Street, it would fall during the months of January or February. The frozen stuff would only last for a couple of days, but that was enough for us to make a lifetime of memories. After all, it’s not everyday you get to slide down an ice-covered hill, dodging the swamp at the bottom, all the while clinging white-knuckled to a sheet of cardboard left over from a new washing machine delivery.
Except for a few bumps and bruises, by nightfall us four boys had survived. Even The Sister had taken a couple of hair-raising rides to the bottom without being any worse for wear. No so much for the once thick sheet of cardboard and Dad’s newly reseeded lawn. Both had taken quite a beating throughout the day.

During the spring, we’d ride our bikes down the hill jumping a ramp over the large moss-covered rock when we reached the bottom. Us riding bikes on Dad’s grass really didn’t damage it all that much. But seeing who could leave the longest skid mark before we reached the bottom sure did.

By dinnertime, our marks had been measured and a winner named, but the damage had been done. Dad’s lush green lawn was now streaked with red clay as it headed into the hot summer in distress. Chances were, it wouldn’t survive the season.

Summer came to 110 Flamingo Street and with it a ride better than any found in traveling county fairs – the giant tractor tire ride. Older Brother Richard first spotted the half-submerged tractor tire while cutting bamboo fishing poles. The bamboo grew at the leading edge of the swamp at the bottom of our backyard. Once rescued and cleaned, we had fun with the giant tractor tire three ways.

First, jumping on the tire was almost as fun as jumping on Twin Brother Mark hiding under his bed sheets. Second, we played dodge the giant tractor tire as it rolled down the hill. Didn’t take too long to figure out it was more fun to send the tire down the hill than to be at the bottom trying to dodge it. Third, we climbed inside the tire and rolled down the hill. Covered in all that rubber, how could we possibly get hurt?

As it turned out “we” didn’t get hurt. The Sister did. She broke her arm when the tire reached the bottom, hit the large moss-covered rock, and then went airborne. That summer, the grass took another beating, and so did all us boys.
Dad’s grass could’ve survived all our adventures if it wasn’t for the great marshmallow war. Just how could you have a war with marshmallows and they destroy an entire backyard of grass at the same time? Did I mention that said marshmallows were on fire?

My three bothers and me along with six other kids from the neighborhood were camping out behind Neighbor Thomas’s house one last time before summer ended. A campfire was built, hotdogs were roasted and eaten — then came dessert. Dessert was s’mores: graham crackers, a chocolate bar, and jumbo marshmallows.
When the chocolate and graham crackers ran out, half a bag of jumbo marshmallows remained, along with a bunch of bored, sugar-charged kids. As it turned out not a good combination for the continued survival of Dad’s grass.

Neighbor Thomas actually was the one who flung the first flaming marshmallow to start the war. The ball of while lava hit me right in the chest. Soon, flaming marshmallows flying through the air illuminated his entire backyard.
The war quickly spread to our backyard, as did the fire no one noticed until it was too late. By the time the fire department left, Dad’s once lush green wave of a lawn was no more. In place of it was blackened earth. Oddly, blackened earth is great for planting new grass seed, which was a hard chore with sore backsides.

The many adventures and misadventures we experienced in the backyard of 110 Flamingo Street seemed to change every year, but a few things never did.
In the fall, us four boys raked leaves and Dad replanted all the grass. For the next two months he watered and enjoyed watching it grow. The rest of the year he sat on the back porch and enjoyed watching the four reasons why his green lawn would not survive.
But he didn’t care. For you see, he too was once young and sagely understood that us four boys and The Sister were having the times of our lives.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is storiesbyrick@gmail.com. His books are available at www.RickRyckeley.com.]

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