Ohio. I'm new here, but I like it a lot. Aside from a few oddities, like calling cokes "pop", creeks "cricks", and drinking Mountain Dew for breakfast, Ohio is an awesome place to live--especially small-town Ohio. The people are different, not as overtly warm as Southern folks, but very nice in a cooler, Northern kind of way.
If you break down or run out of gas on a back road around Mt. Gilead, you don't have to worry much, because just about everybody that comes your way is going to stop to see if they can help. I've been driven home by strangers, towed to their homes to work on my old pickup, and I even had one old gent--despite my protests--leave me his cell phone while he went into town to pick up a pizza. How nice is that? In El Paso, nobody was going to stop on I-10 to give you a hand, unless it was a hand with a gun it it--though I will say that when they rob you, they do it politely, and in Spanish.
I love the wave. You just about need a third hand to drive safely around here, because unless you're on a major highway, everybody waves. It's one of the coolest things, really, a little thing, yes, but it makes me feel like I'm in the heart of what makes America America. And not the America of now, either, but the America of my grandfather's youth. Folksy. Home.
And Ohio is the only place I've lived where each season is distinct from the season before, something I love. I don't mind winter's cold, except for the fuel oil bills that come with it, and the oppressive heat of summer only makes me appreciate the awesomeness of spring and fall. The schools are great, the teachers actually know who my boys are, and the sports...well, here is where we were headed when I started this ramble.
Ohio is all about sports. More than anywhere I have lived, Ohioans eat, breathe, and live for their sports. Ohio State isn't a school, it's a church--a sports church. Football. Baseball. Basketball. Oh, and wrestling---geeze, the kids are wrestling here before they can speak full sentences. Doesn't matter the flavor, Ohioans love their sports, no doubt about that.
Personally, as a transplant, it's taken me a little time, but I have converted to The Browns and The Indians. Now, I haven't reached the full-blown, Native Ohioan rabid-fan stage, but I'm liking my guys. Hard not to like the underdogs, and it seems like my teams of choice are underdogs every year, so I'm happy to join that club. But despite all this sport-fanatic hype, I think the true sport of Ohio, the real almost-religion semi-athletic endeavor that goes unrecognized nationally, never makes it onto the prime-time boob-tube, and is seldom recognized even by Ohioans as the sport oddity that it is, is mowing.
Now I can imagine any non-Ohio folks who stumble across this blog shaking their heads in disbelief, because it took me some time, too, to recognize the odd truth of this, but true it is: mowing in Ohio is a competitive cross between sport and religion. There are few strangers in Ohio, because every resident from outside a major urban zone has mowing in common. They talk about it in line at the grocery store, at church, at more recognized athletic events, and over the back fence. It goes like this:
"Hey, how'ya doin', George?"
"Oh, not too bad, Jacob, how 'bout you?"
"Good enough. Got my blades sharpened, so I'm gonna get on home an' see if I can get the front half mowed before this rain moves in."
"Yeah, I hear that. Got mine done before work this mornin'. That ol' John Deere o' mine don't mind cuttin' in the dark."
"Man, I'm mowin' twice a week right now, how 'bout you?"
"Oh, hell yeah, grass growin' like weeds. Bernice and I been mowin' in shifts..."
Think I'm kidding? I am not--rural Ohioans live to mow. It is a passion. But for a transplant like me, it takes a little getting used to. First, as I said before, I moved from El Paso. Most front yards in El Paso are stone, or maybe stone and cactus. Tastefully arranged, often enough, but still stone and cactus. The back yards, if you water your sand a lot, might be grassy, but I will admit that despite good intentions, mine remained more sand than grass. So the grass/mowing frenzy of Ohio came as a bit of a shock. You may be judged by your mowing skills--no, that's not right--you will be judged by your mowing skills, or lack thereof.
Personally, I have nothing against grass, and on most days I'd rather be fishing, hiking, reading, or doing just about anything than cutting grass. I mean, it's just grass, after all. In fact, it's a weed. A perfectly natural, rampantly spreading, religiously cultivated weed, for goodness sake, so why all the fuss? Maybe we should conserve our time, energy, and fuel, and let the little green bugger go. I mean, what's it ever done to us? It's natural, it's green--let it go!
But no. Not here. That would be a blatant betrayal of the mowing mania. Wrong. Outsiderish. A sin, or at least a penalty-rated foul. Where would we be without our mowing? What would be do? How would we spend our time? What would we talk about? How would we be measured against the Joneses, and how would we measure them?
Mowing. It's what we do. It's who we are. It's Ohio's favorite sport.
So where does this leave me and my acres of grass? In position to rebel. That's right, I could go on strike. I could call it quits and come to an understanding with this rampant weed. I could say, "Hey, look at me, neighbors, I've started my own game, and in my game we don't measure our grass for its shortness, but for its height!" I could punt.
But I won't, I know. I will conform. I will cut my green weeds with reckless abandon, not because I have anything against the little SOBs, but because mowing is the sport in my adopted home, and grass is the opposing team. I won't punt, I'll run it right up the middle. And when someone in the grocery line asks, I'll tell them the old John Deere is ready to go, God-willing that rain doesn't move in before sundown. Yep, mowing, it's more than a job, it's my state sport.
It's Sunday, Mother's Day, and I guess I better get outside before the rain moves back in. Don't want that grass to get the upper hand on me. I might even try for the crisscross, checkerboard cut that Jeremiah across the road manages with is zero-turn--he's a real pro. Uhuh...
Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there. Hope you've got your mowing done.