I loved living in Chester County, Pennsylvania. (The photo is my house. It was a converted and updated farmhouse.) I was only 20 minutes from work, which proved to be a blessing and a curse. Getting there was easy, but since I lived closer than anyone else, I was always the first one called when someone was sick. God bless Caller ID.
I had a little more than 5 acres with a one-acre stream and spring-fed lake. It was an excellent place to just relax and sit on the front porch with a guitar and some fine Scotch. I entertained B.B. King there, along with many other celebrities who appeared on QVC. B.B., a most gracious gentleman, played several of my guitars while we sat by the lake and talked about life, the blues and women. He had much better stories about women than I did. Sadly, B.B.’s QVC appearance was cancelled by his management team who thought TV Shopping wasn’t the right image for him.
I eventually bought a John Deere to mow the several acres of grass on my property. Before that, I used a couple of local landscapers. The first one insisted on being paid in cash. One day, his wife showed up and wanted to be paid for the past month of mowing. I told her I paid her husband in cash. It took a while but I finally convinced her that I had already paid the bill.
When he showed up the next time, he started reading me the riot act for talking about our payment arrangements with his spouse. I asked him to calm down but the guy kept screaming at me. He stopped and lowered his voice, saying that since we were both men, I should understand why he needed cash that his wife knew nothing about. The guy went on and on about his young girlfriend and their sexual escapades. I almost threw up in my mouth when he winked at me while he was describing an unusual sex act. (He must have been a lot more flexible than I was.)
It was pretty easy to fire him on the spot. He said he was going to cut my lawn anyway and I’d better pay him for the last cut. I explained to him that if he trespassed on my lawn, I would call the police. He shrugged that off and started driving his tractor around my house to the front lawn. I walked through the house, grabbed my 12 gauge and met him in the front yard. I never pointed it at him, but I did explain that as a trespasser I would be within my rights to blow him to hell. I’m sure that isn’t true, but I guess he figured it wasn’t worth the hassle and left.
My next landscaper was a father/son team I dubbed “Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber.” They also did my snowplowing before I bought a snow blower. After the Blizzard of 1996, they drove into my driveway going at least 40 miles per hour. They cleaved off my well cap and did a lot of other damage they never paid for. I’m pretty sure they were always drunk although it was difficult to smell the booze through the B.O.
One day, they came in from cutting the grass and told me I had ground hornets. They took me outside and showed me two holes in the lawn where the nasty creatures were swarming. They assured me that for an additional $100, they would get rid of the pests. I negotiated them to $75 and told them to have at it.
The next day they showed up and said they were ready to get rid of the hornets. I went outside with them. They had a couple of little propane tanks with them, the kind you would use on a portable torch. I figured they were going to gas the little buggers. They assured me they had done this many times before. They turned on the propane tanks and inserted the nozzles into the holes.
When the tanks were empty, before I could say anything, the father yelled “Fire in the hole!” to his son who threw a match into one of the hornet holes. I wish they had smart phones in the 1990’s so I could have caught what happened next in full HD glory.
There was a huge explosion that shook the ground and blew my lawn several feet into the air. The lawn was destroyed and the explosion was so powerful that I had a foundation specialist come out and check for damage. Luckily the house was fine.
Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber were standing there, smiling. I freaked out. The father assured me that, even though about an acre of my front lawn was now blown to pieces, the ground hornets were gone. I took him over to one of the holes and showed him the hornets still swarming around. They had succeeded in blowing my lawn about 6 feet into the air but the bugs were virtually unharmed.
Of course I fired them on the spot and demanded my $75 back. They begrudgingly gave it back. I also told them they were going to have to pay for a new lawn as my house now looked like a war zone. Surprisingly, they agreed. Even though they were no longer cutting my grass, they bought the sod and replaced the lawn within a week. I think my screaming about suing them into the next century resonated with them.
The ground hornets? Glad you asked. I went to Ace Hardware and bought 2 cans of the really powerful hornet spray, which is a neurotoxin. I duct taped the buttons down and stuck the cans in the hornet holes, still intact although the lawn was gone. To pay homage to my former landscapers, I even did it while I was slightly inebriated. Next day the hornets were all dead. I considered a career in lawn maintenance but didn’t want all the hassle of getting married and finding a mistress or not bathing for a year.
It was after all this that I bought my John Deere. I had driven a much larger one on the farm where I grew up so it was easy to negotiate the lawn cutting version.
What about Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber? I heard that the father died a few months after the incident and allegedly the son became reclusive and had to be removed from their house. One day, I drove by their house and saw a pile of rubble. I asked our local Police Chief what happened and he told me the sad story. It seems that after the father died, the son really lost it. Eventually, prompted by the fact that all utilities had been turned off to the house (a really nice place in Chester County) for nonpayment, they removed him from the dwelling.
Apparently, the utilities had contacted the authorities who entered the house, only to find the son living in unimaginable filth. When they removed him to get him help, they found the house infested with all manner of vermin – rats, bats, mice, fleas, flies, mosquitoes and even raccoons. The best restoration companies in the area all had the same verdict – tear it down. Knowing the miracles these companies can perform, it had to be horrible.
I never heard about the son again. I hope he received the help he needed and is better now. I always thought about visiting him (wherever he was) and whispering “Fire in the Hole” in his ear while he was sleeping while releasing a jar full of ground hornets under his sheets.
© 2017 Steve Bryant – No portion of this or any blog can be reproduced or copied and posted on any online site or read aloud on any audio or video media without the express permission of the author.