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Monday, February 17, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Summer Projects Take Teamwork

By Kathleen Corkery Spencer The Spo

Ah, the sweet sounds of summer. Our neighbor is mowing his concrete driveway, two feral cats are in the throes of a raucous romance and my husband is gunning the motor of his weed-whacker. If defoliation were an Olympic event, he’d be going for the gold.

Summer is that special time when we momentarily retire our snowblowers and turn our thoughts to more gentle pursuits: slug-baiting, bug-zapping, and yard-preening.

Yardwork is a contact sport; contact with mealy bugs, earwigs, fairy rings and grass that grows everywhere but where it’s planted. There are two basic rules in the game of yardwork. Both of them are remembered and forgotten each summer.

The first rule is that it will never be finished. The second rule is that if you buy enough tools, gadgets and whirligigs you will never have to admit the truth of the first rule. Thus, you can keep yourself happily engaged in open-ended projects until the snow flies.

Depending on your point of view, yardwork falls either under the general category of a) home improvement, or b) irreconcilable differences. Of course, for some people these categories are interchangeable.

Yardwork is not a team sport. But for every good home project, there are at least two players. These players are commonly known as the Grand Poobah and the Village Idiot.

The Grand Poobah knows everything, period. Whether it’s debating the advantages of a riding versus an upright mower or weaving that delightful argyle pattern into the lawn, the Poobah knows the best and only way to do the job.

Thanks to Martha Stewart, there is now a sub-category of yard decorators known as the Fabulous Poobahs. Like their grand counterparts, they know it all. Their expertise is the just-right placement of non-functional bird feeders, artificial wildlife and ubiquitous angels.

The Poobahs, grand and fabulous, may know it all. But they need others to do it all. Enter the Village Idiot. Contrary to what their name implies, Village Idiots are really not stupid, just available. OK, maybe just a little stupid, too.

Usually they are drawn to do the Poobah’s bidding with the promise that “this will just take a ‘sec.’ ” Hours later, when the villager recognizes the ruse, it’s too late. The outcome is inevitable: The Village Idiot is going to the hardware store to pick up the missing piece.

The Poobah will give detailed instructions on how to identify the missing piece, its precise location in the store and even the best parking spot. The Poobah will not, however, actually go to the store. This would break the Poobah’s concentration, draw critical time away from the project and undermine all progress. Besides, the Poobah really hates waiting in line.

The Village Idiot, held hostage by the project, just wants it to end. Armed with a ransom note, the villager goes off to the store. Along the way, the villager encounters enraged drivers, clueless sales people and endless lines.

The villager arrives home to see that the Poobah has either a) fallen asleep on the hammock or b) gone into the house to check the clock because surely it wouldn’t take even an idiot this long to find the missing piece.

With any luck the villager’s mission is successful. The project can be completed in roughly the amount of time it takes to weave a sweater from the surplus hair of a Chihuahua. Bliss follows. The yard looks like Pebble Beach. The plastic lawn leprechauns wink approvingly.

But without luck, words are exchanged. Colorful, festive words. The Poobah, recognizing its superior skills, braves the crowds and returns with the missing piece. Or, if it is an advertised item, a rain-check. The disgruntled villager mows the concrete and plots the Poobah’s demise: death by inhalation of citronella candles.

Our neighbor has finished mowing. The cats bask in afterglow. The weed-whacker has ran out of line. Silence, followed by hummingbird wings. Ah, the sweet sound of summer.


The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Kathleen Corkery Spencer The Spokesman-Review

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