Letter to the editor — Cutting for the county

Published 4:00 pm Sunday, June 12, 2022

When I was a kid back in the ’60s, in some suburban version of utopia, a few of the neighbors — those without children of their own — would hire me to cut their grass. And I jumped at the chance to supplement my measly allowance any way I could. These were postage stamp-sized lots, front and back, flat as billiard tables and no sweat for an eager 10-year-old, even in the height of an Appalachian summer. I could easily translate all that hard work into a new glove for next year’s Little League season, maybe even that shiny Schwinn I had my eye on. Ah, life was good!

Don’t get me wrong; life is still good, even though 60 years on I’m still cutting grass. My own — mostly — and with a push mower not so very different from that of my youth. And I’m still getting paid for my efforts, in a roundabout retiree’s reasoning anyway. That is to say,

I mow my acre and a half homestead, front and back, so that I don’t have to hire someone else to do it.

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And there are the intangibles: fresh air, exercise, my wife’s approval, and the satisfaction I derive from doing this chore myself and keeping our property looking good. What could possibly be wrong with this picture?

Well, when my trusty TroyBilt comes within sight of the right-of-way marker at the eastern end of the yard, that’s when it hits me. I say “end,” though that obnoxious concrete cube lies some twenty feet from the road. Which means that I wind up cutting the grass on someone else’s property — namely Lincoln County’s — just like I did as a child. Except, of course, that the county doesn’t ask me nice and neighborly to do it, or remind me to wear a sunhat, or bring me lemonade from time to time. And they certainly don’t pay me for my trouble.

“How much trouble?” you might ask. Well, let’s see now. Twenty feet in from the road times the roughly 400-foot width of our property equals about 8,000 square feet. Whew! That’s a lot of postage stamps! But, to their credit, the county crew does show up two or three times a summer so that I am left to do their work “only” seven or eight times. It’d be nice if they cut all the way down to the right-of-way marker, like I must, but they don’t

It’s not as if this dereliction of duty has happened only during the 2022 season. No sir, it’s been going on for about 25 years, ever since the county invoked eminent domain in order to widen the road. If I were really the free-spirited contrarian so many assume I am, I would dummy up an invoice and send it to our district supervisor. It would read something like this:

8,000 square feet x 5 mowings/season x 25 years = 1,000,000 square feet of YOUR yard that I have had to cut. How much should I charge you?  I think back on those tiny suburban lawns I mowed as a kid; they were maybe 1,000 square feet. For each yard I earned an average of, say, $3. I’m not an unreasonable man. Suppose I charge the county only my 1962 10-year-old kid’s fee. That’s still the equivalent of 1,000 yards x $3 = $3,000. I’ll even waive the interest and late charges, okay?

Is there any chance at all that Lincoln County would pay me for my trouble? Uh, none.

How about a credit on my property taxes? Yeah, good luck with that, too. The best I can hope for is that sometime this summer our supervisor will drive by when I’m busy mowing the county’s grass and thank me for my service. And maybe, just maybe, if he has an extra one in his truck, he might offer me a cold drink.

It’s the least they can do.

Eric Kaplan, Lincoln County