We have four dogs now, which has resulted in a lawn-care crisis here at the Windy F Ranch.
\nWilly the Schnauzerwhatsit, Scruffy the Cairn, and Lola the mini-weenie leave their fair share of woof-poop, but Ziggy the worst hunting dog in Texas drops weapons-grade Beaglebombs that can make vultures fall from the sky and turn joggers into retching zombies liable to stumble into oncoming traffic.
\nThe most common grass on suburban lawns in the South is St. Augustine, a ghastly weed that when short is nasty to walk on in bare feet, and when long is capable of hiding the foot mines that Ziggy growls off at least twice a day.
\nIn my infinite wisdom I had the St. Augustine torn up and planted Zoysia, which is found at courses like Riviera and Torrey Pines. If you keep Zoysia short enough, it's a nice little creeper that sends out tight shoots that will choke any weed, and it takes a stripe nicely, too. The key word here however is "short," and for that you need the type of mower greens crews walk behind as they turn putting surfaces into that lovely checkerboard pattern.
\nNo problem, I thought, until I found out that a cylinder mower from Toro or John Deere would set me back around $10K. Who knew? I called Brandon Goodyk, my superintendent superhero at Vaquero Club in Westlake, Texas, and asked him to find me a decent used one. I'm now the proud owner of a 4-year-old Toro Greensmaster, which set me back a mere $3,000!
\nBrandon showed me how to set the blades at the correct height, how to remove the rubber tires that move the mower around on concrete surfaces, the brake engage/disengage, the throttle and clutch, and the all-important lever that drops the reel to the set cutting height. As Brandon drove off to his barn filled with what I was to learn are Mexican artists, I thought, "How hard can this be?"
\nThe Zoysia was around 2 inches long when I started, and I had the blades set at 1. My plan was to work my way down each week to half an inch. I pulled the ripcord and my baby gurgled to life. I dropped the blades, let out the clutch, and the mower took off like a quarterhorse without me. I caught up with the beast and yanked the brake, causing it to stop instantly, spearing me in the balls with a headlamp that had been spun around by the violent takeoff.
\nYodeling the Belgian national anthem, I cranked the bastard down and made an initial pass, trying to follow stripes that I was not leaving. Scratching my head and rubbing my boys, I tried to figure why I was only creating turbulence and not cutting any grass. That's when I realized I'd forgotten to take the tires off.
\nNo problem, off they came, down she went, and I was off and mowing. Nothing to see here, just a strange white man out mowing his own yard!
\nExamining my handiwork after my first attempt, I decided I had more control over the last 18 inches of Ziggy's bowels than I was ever going to have over this 250 lbs. of precision machinery. The front lawn looked suspiciously like Ian Poulter's head. I now have a new employee called Flaco, and grass a half-inch high in front, upon which Ziggy now refuses to drop ordinance.
\nThat dog is not right.