I always expected to find whole turds floating on the grass in our front yard.
I grew up in a red, three bedroom ranch-style house that stoically sat on two and a half acres. The front yard, I always thought, had to be two acres in itself, but I only make that judgement based on the amount of time it took me to mow the yard with our gas-powered push mower. Ages.
I was two and my mom was pregnant with my sister when it occured to my dad that no sissified, town-bred daughter of his should be afraid of bugs. His solution to my fear? We moved into the country. I like to say I grew up on a farm, but to put it more truthfully, I grew up on a bit of land a few miles out of town.
Our neighbors had horses and cows, goats, pigs, chickens and ducks. One neighbor owned the world's most annoying, Kix-eating peacocks (until the peacocks ate my dad's tomatoes. That neighbor was then told that he should get rid of the birds or my dad would do it for him. As we never had any guns in the house, I'm still curious about how my dad would have actually followed through with this threat. Empty threat or not, the peacocks quickly found a new home.) We had two and a half acres of grazing fields that were constantly being loaned out to neighbors and their livestock (much easier than mowing). So, by proxy, I grew up on a farm.
The man who built our house can be called resourceful (the rocks that formed one whole interior wall of the house were poached from local beaches). He can be called eccentric (the house is probably to this day nowhere near to meeting code). He can be called crazy. It made perfect sense to him that the drain field should serve double duty as a front yard.
It made even more sense that he should plant ten or fifteen fruit trees in that front yard. Now, I don't know exactly why it's a bad idea to plant trees in a drain field, but I do know that my parents thought this was the dumbest idea ever. Also, I know that mowing circles around ten or fifteen fruit trees has scarred my lawn-keeping sensibilities for life.
My young mind nurished a very specific concept of how a drain field worked. We flushed, sending our waste through underground pipes that must simply deposit the raw matter beneath the grass of the front yard. At that point, the more solid waste would wiggle its way through the dirt and grass, eventually surfacing--hence, the turds on the lawn. This never happened, of course, but I always watched where I stepped and I always knew that I was walking through a urine-soaked lawn.
Several times each year, and usually in the spring when the already squishy drain field was sodden with Pacific Northwest rains, the horses who lived across the street would find a way through their electric wire habitats and into our front yard where the well-fertilized grass grew lush and deep green. It wasn't uncommon for someone to look out the front door and announce, "Migi, Bramb and Dax are coming over for breakfast!" These quirky guests proved a mild annoyance; their heavy hooves left six-inch deep holes in the turf and made lawn-mowing an even greater adventure.
As the burgeoning equestrian of the house, I would tie on my shoes (or not) and join the horses in the front yard. Returning the horses was simple. I would grab Migi by her forelock and throw my weight into my heels. Eventually she would pry her glutonous muzzle from her breakfast feast and allow me to lead her back across the street and into her own paddock where her perfectly adequate meal of alfalfa awaited her. The two geldings, having been severely pussy-whipped by the boss mare, would obediently follow along behind her. Three horses, one girl, zero halters.
And I'm still terrified of bugs.
Join me next week for: Taboggans, Unfinished Go-Carts and Giant Rubber Bands