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Out on a Limb with Yard Work

By Jerry Zezima

Ask any robin, blue jay or birdbrained homeowner and they will tell you that everything happens in trees.

I know this, and not because a little bird told me, after seeing the debris that several trees recently left in my yard. Actually, two yards, front and back, which were littered with leaves, twigs and branches when a storm blew through and knocked out our power for six days.

My power, never in great supply, was knocked out over the course of three days, when I founded Jerry’s Landscaping, Tree Trimming & Myocardial Infarction Service.

The crew consisted of yours truly, president, and my wife, Sue, treasurer, a job that entailed no work because money, unfortunately, doesn’t grow on trees.

But the aforementioned arboreal appendages do, along with acorns and assorted other nuts, one of whom, as you may have guessed, was me.

I thought I was through with yard work forever when I gave it up seven years ago and hired a company to do spring and fall cleanups and, every other week, cut the grass. Or what little there is of it because, thanks to a shady oak in the front, the yard looks like it was manicured with a flamethrower.

Speaking of oaks, they are the root (sorry) of the problem. They are supposedly the strongest trees, but like big, burly, macho guys who faint when they get a flu shot, they’re really wimps.

Even in a light breeze, they’ll turn into litterbugs, leaving my property strewn with leaves, twigs, branches, acorns and, in the spring, that disgusting brown gunk that falls on my car, which becomes so messy with sticky stuff that it couldn’t be thoroughly cleaned unless I drove it under Niagara Falls.

So you can imagine what my yard looked like after the recent tropical storm, which should have minded its own business and stayed in the tropics.

The really exasperating part was that countless healthy limbs came crashing down while several dead branches, probably associated with my bank, remained attached to the trunks of our biggest oaks.

I feared that when I went outside to clean up, the trees would know how much this annoyed me and would wait until I was directly underneath, at which point the lifeless limbs would drop on what would soon be my lifeless torso.

After dinner on the day of the storm, Sue and I went out to the front yard and, with one old rake between us, started cleaning up. The rake was of minimal use because it looked like a skinny boxer who’d had a couple of teeth knocked out.

“How come we have only one rake?” I asked Sue.

“Because,” she shot back, “you don’t do yard work anymore.”

So we took turns: One would rake, the other would break up fallen limbs, twigs and branches and stuff them into a large lawn and garden bag. We worked until dark, then went back in the house, which also was dark.

The next day, I spent five hours cleaning up the backyard, which was a disaster area because it’s dotted with oaks that teamed up to see how long it would take me to throw my back out.

I couldn’t do that, of course, because it wouldn’t have fit in a bag already overflowing with woody debris. Since Sue was out, the only person who could help me was Woody Debris, but he must have been cleaning up his own yard.

A few days later, Sue and I finished the job. All in all, we filled 16 bags.

As I brought our pathetic little rake back to the shed, a brazen robin taunted me with chirps.

“There’s a lesson in all of this,” I told Sue. “Tropical storms and mighty oaks are for the birds.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group, which includes his hometown paper, the Stamford Advocate. His column is distributed by Tribune News Service of Chicago and has run in newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of five books, Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows Best, Nini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures and Every Day Is Saturday, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

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