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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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Return to lately 2010.

as so often happens
august 1, 2010

We had to mow the lawn.

During the Spring, Mary and I had been conscientious about getting outside once a week, about an hour after breakfast, me mowing while Mary edged.

But right now, Texas is in triple digits. Five steps from your front door, the air is almost too hot to breathe.

Plus the grass is taller than usual, because we skipped a week. An unexpected series of rain storms (it almost never rains in Texas during the Summer) had made the grass too wet to cut. While we waited inside for the lawn to dry, watching movies, cooking delicious meals, scolding our cats, the blades grew higher, bending over at their tips, glistening with dew.

Monday, July 19, was our first opportunity to get out there.

We were not looking forward to it.

I pulled up the garage door. Stepped out into the Texas front yard heat, sighed, then went back to the garage to maneuver our mower past the 20 pound bags of kitty litter and 10 pound bags of charcoal.

As always, I felt sorry for our mower. It's painted in vibrant red and black colors, as if it were a supersonic jet, but I've let it down. I never pour oil into it. I never roll it over onto its back, like a horseshoe crab, sharpening its four leaf clover blades. If my mower ever reads this, like on a Google search or whatever, I'm really sorry. I am just so lazy about some things.

Up at the top of the driveway I poured some gasoline into the mower. Yanked the starter cord backwards, shocking the lawnmower into life.

When grass is this tall, it's difficult to cut. Instead of the mower gliding smoothly over the lawn, like the back of a silver tablespoon gliding mayonnaise over a slice of pumpernickel bread, the lawnmower tends to chug-a-chug, jade cuttings clumping around the blades, giving them a wobble. Sometimes, the mower coughs, coughs and stalls. You have to yank back the black cord in the middle of the sidewalk under the hot sun, short-sleeved shirt molded to your ribs, scalp sweat salting your eyes.

I always start at the top of the driveway, the west side. After following behind the mower, fingers curled around the handlebars, I reached the sidewalk, then angled the mower left, to continue along the wide, front edge of our west lawn. My face, armpits and spine were already wet and warm, and I had just begun.

I walked behind the mower, paralleling the concrete sidewalk, towards our neighbor's property line on the west.

There's a big redbud tree in our west front yard, so I couldn't see into the depth of the side yard until I passed the tree. This section of lawn starts at the sidewalk, ends at the gray wood privacy fence halfway down the red brick depth of our house.

As I turned at the edge of our property, a few feet from our neighbor's driveway, to mow into the depth of that side yard, I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye.

There was something alive moving in front of our privacy fence.

I thought it was a cat, because there had been an orange cat exploring our backyard a few days prior.

But standing still, sweating profusely, holding onto the vibration and noise of the mower, I realized it wasn't a cat. It was a chicken.

An absolutely beautiful chicken.

Chickens, in America, used to be raised as show animals rather than food. Looking at this chicken deep in our side yard, as it bent forward and pecked, I could see why.

I've seen lots of chickens in movies, cartoons, cages at fairs, the refrigerated bins of supermarkets.

I had never seen a chicken running free before.

It was big. Bigger than I expected.

And absolutely beautiful, in a way most birds aren't beautiful.

Feathers a mix of camel and the purest white. Each feather luxuriant, long enough to make a man's palm look small. Eyes that seemed intelligent, like a dog's. In its self-possession, its movements, there was something regal about it. Graceful. Like it knew it was lost, but also knew it was the best bird.

Mary was all the way back at our driveway. I caught her attention over the noise of the mower, and bending my elbow, scooping my raised right hand towards me, I signaled for her to come over.

Which she did, curious, even more so as I raised an upright forefinger to my lips.

Once she was on the other side of the redbud, I pointed gleefully at the privacy fence.

I watched as she looked, as it registered on her what she was seeing.

We opened our mouths to each other in astonishment, but silently, because we didn't want to scare the bird.

Mary went down the side yard towards the chicken. We had to get it out of that area so I could continue mowing. I could tell the chicken was aware of the noise of the lawnmower. Glancing sideways at the noise as it kept pecking. Disturbed by that intrusion.

Bending her knees, waving her lovely hands, Mary managed to scoot the chicken out of the space. I was amazed how fast the chicken ran. So fast, you could never catch it.

Leaning against each other, both of us sweaty, we watched it run to the middle of the concrete road, not a good idea, then all the way across to the other side, then down that side street's sidewalk, hopping smaller and smaller, until it disappeared behind the license plates of parked cars.

Mary and I grinned at each other. Another moment shared, in a lifetime of moments shared.

We thought mowing the lawn was going to be an awful task. We dreaded it! And instead, as so often happens, it turned into something beautiful.

My Video Lately this month continues my efforts to document the ordinary events in my life. I hope you enjoy it.