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Outdoor Life: Messes of the masses
Alvin Richardson
Alvin Richardson

After some reflection I’ve concluded that a goodly portion of my life has been consumed with picking up stuff.
    If you tally time spent on things like cleaning up behind untidy children, picking up clutter following visits from kinfolk, taking out the trash, picking butterbeans out of Daddy’s garden, cotton out of his field and hay out of his pastures, cleaning up a yard full of shredded paper after the dogs got in an untended trash can and other such incidents it accounts for a lot of time and I’m sure you get the idea. 
    Those chores have utterly obliterated roughly half my lifespan. It’s a phenomenon I refer to as messes of the masses.
    But all those things aside the current mess of the masses is coming in the form of leaves, and I’ve got a slew of trees at my present address. I know most of you deal with the same problem because unless you live in The Little House on the Prairie there are massive amounts of tree litter in your yard as we speak. 
    There are various schools of thought as to how to handle this problem. School number one is what I refer to as the “Don’t give a rat’s behind about them” and just let them pile up. This can cause severe social discord in one’s household.
    School of thought number two is to blow them out of the yard with a mechanical device — only to have them blow back into the yard when a polar vortex comes barreling down out of Canada.
    School of thought number three is to chop them up with a mulching apparatus which can be efficient but does not give one’s yard the neatest of appearances. 
    School number four is to rake them up manually — and given the size of my yard and the billions of leaves on the trees only an absolute fool would take that approach. 
    Then there’s school number five which is to bag them up with an ingenious device attached to a riding lawnmower, and that is the category to which I subscribe.
    Bagging leaves makes the yard look like a well cleaned carpet and I like that. After years of grooming football fields I suppose that’s just hard-wired into my brain, but there are down sides to this method.
    One major shortcoming of this process is that as soon as you’ve spent four hours bagging the leaves and laboring to give your lawn a pristine look, a chinook wind builds out of the north and the masses of trees begin to mess on the yard again. By morning it looks as if someone took the bagged vegetation and unceremoniously dumped it back onto the beautiful carpet.   This maddening process goes on for two or three months. 
    One year I came up with a brilliant idea.  I’d just let all the leaves fall off the trees and bag them up at one time in a gigantic roundup. But that didn’t work out because there were so many leaves that it clogged up my lawnmower making it an impossible task. At that point my idea was to revert to school of thought number one which did indeed cause severe disharmony within the household. I ultimately had to settle for school of thought number four which resulted in a fist full of blisters, two missed fishing trips, a canceled golf outing and further social unrest in the home. 
    Two days later, that predictable chinook wind blew them back into the yard and domestic social upheaval nearly turned into divorce proceedings.
    I’m nearly through with the messes of the tree masses for this year, but recently a large rain storm brought on another setback that my wife immediately picked up on.
    As the rain pounded down it seems that the gutters were not functioning properly and were overflowing in critical places, which indicated they were clogged with the accursed leaves. 
    There are several schools of thought on this matter but I won’t bore you with all of them. Suffice it to say that I’m getting ready to break out a 40-foot ladder (high roof), a bucket (can’t throw that scum in the flower beds), some sticky-bottomed shoes (for severely inclined roof pitch) and have canceled all recreational engagements for the week.
    Because of these developments there are new schools of thought coursing through my brain. Some of them involve chain saws. Others necessitate a move to the flat, treeless plains of Walnut Grove, Minnesota, where the Little House on the Prairie enjoys a leafless existence and the messes of the masses are limited to small children, rowdy dogs and pristine hay fields.

    Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at