Graves: Foiled by fall foliage

Hero of autumn

War has come to my yard. But this battle doesn’t involve modern conventional weapons with individual rounds of ammunition that cost almost as much as my eldest and most expensive daughter’s wardrobe. Instead, this is a battle against one of the most annoying forces of nature known to man — the scourge of autumn leaves.

At some point in mid-fall, all the delinquent trees in my neighborhood get together in the middle of the night to vape and prank the middle-aged neat freak with the tidy lawn compulsion. The next morning I awaken to find my lawn adorned with what some people might consider a charming, colorful mosaic. I view it as a cruel conspiracy involving the great outdoors and the Hefty Corp. to coerce me into doing yard work long after my grass has finally quit growing and turned an exquisite lifeless beige.

Of course, I realize that during autumn and early winter, falling leaves — along with Walmart running out of canned chili with no beans — is one of the unavoidable laws of nature and a byproduct of living in densely forested East Texas.

What seems especially unfair, though, is that most of the leaves that seek asylum on my property are from other people’s trees. It’s as if Mother Nature is trying to stand out in a crowded presidential primary by adopting a radical scheme of reverse leaf-litter socialism.

I’ve seriously considered building a great and beautiful wall — and having the neighbors pay for it. I’m also currently trying to decide whether it would be rude to ask them to retrieve their own fugitive leaves from my yard. After all, I occasionally clean up after my daughters’ scruffy doglets when they attempt to sabotage the lawns and sneakers of the folks next door with their homemade puppy truffles.

Speaking of dogs, when my three girls were younger, we owned two lovable and chronically smelly Chinese pugs that spent a good deal of time transforming our yard into a Lincoln Log minefield. One fine autumn day I decided to gather up a pile of leaves for the girls to jump in — because one of the greatest delights of children is to wallow in a mound of filthy yard rakings and emerge with a pants load of pine straw. Although I thought I had been diligent in picking up after the pugs, my middle daughter soon found the needle in the haystack — or in this case, the doodie in the leaf pile — and was wearing it like a therapeutic body mask. Luckily, the smell went away after a couple of weeks.

Probably the most exasperating leaf crisis I experience each year results from our rain gutters emitting tractor beams that exclusively attract dead foliage — and the occasional lizard corpse. Sure, I could pay to have those fancy gutter guards installed for about the price of a double hip replacement, but that would rob me of the pleasure of balancing myself on a rickety ladder in gale force winds while I reach into the downspouts to drag out what looks like the aftermath of an alien C-section.

And that’s to say nothing of the full-blown toga party of unbridled leafage hosted by our swimming pool when the cold weather of the holiday season arrives. On any given night, I can often be found freezing my sugarplums off in the back tundra as I scoop a metric ton of soggy and heavily chlorinated flora from the arctic waters of the old prune tank.

On a positive note, falling leaves do announce the arrival of some of the most special times of the year, when families gather around warm fireplaces, enjoy uplifting fellowship and engage in protracted overeating. Which reminds me: If I ever get all these leaves picked up, I can make it to Walmart before they run out of chili.

— Jase Graves, a Longview resident, is a columnist with Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate and a regular contributor to the News-Journal.

Today's Bible verse

The word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.

— Psalms 33:4-5

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