Our house is a fixer upper (that I used to think would one day be fixed up. Silly, naïve me). When we first bought it ten years ago, my father tried to inspire me by speaking nostalgically about the backbreaking labor he and Mom had put into houses they’d owned. He recalled with pride the retaining wall he’d built after hours of digging into solid rock. My grandpa drove me to a house he’d once owned and spoke in that same reverential tone about the retaining wall he’d built in the front yard. I wanted to be moved by Dad and Grandpa’s awe for their retaining walls, but putting in a yard just sounded like, well, work. And not just any work—the evil, weekend stealing type of work that kills that Friday night buzz.
Shortly after moving in, feeling either especially brave or stupid, my husband and I decided to tame the jungle of weeds outside. After visiting a local Manly Man store to seek advice, Andy came home with the unshakeable knowledge that we should rent a bobcat to tear out the weeds. Like I knew what that was. But Andy explained that a bobcat is a shrunken down bulldozer that he would drive through the yard to rip the weeds out by their roots. It sounded like overkill, and the way that Andy was grunting and scratching as he said it only fueled my doubts. My hands were still calloused from unsuccessful hours of hacking at the weeds, however, so in a moment of weakness I gave in.
When my brother and father heard we were renting a bobcat, they were suddenly overcome with a sense of familial duty and volunteered to help. And I guess the bobcat was worth it. Everyone took turns driving it, and we got rid of the weeds. Plus, whenever bobcats pop up in conversation, Andy gets a cool story to tell, sort of like this:
Unsuspecting friend: Did you hear about that guy who saw a bobcat when he was out running on the trails?
Andy: No way! So I remember when I drove a bobcat…
It was a good thing we got rid of those weeds because they stuck to Rocky’s fur like Velcro. Once, pre-bobcat, Rocky managed to get one of weeds lodged in his ear. Of course, it happened on a Friday night when he had to be taken to an emergency vet.
After attempting to dislodge the weed, the vet told us that our dog had the hairiest ears of any dog he’d ever seen. (I was a little proud. Really? THE hairiest ears? You’re not just saying that?) Because of this, the vet had to use anesthesia and pluck all of Rocky’s ear hair before removing the weed. It was a bit tragic for Rocky, who temporarily forfeited his Hairiest Ears title, and more tragic for us, when we saw the bill.
After the weed-in-ear-incident, we erected a temporary fence to keep Rocky in the de-weeded zones of the backyard. It was a depressing addition for Rocky. He stared longingly at the vast expanse of backyard that lay outside his puny pen. There were several successful Houdini puppy escapes, and it is a very strange thing that a dog who cannot learn to sit, stay, or even to stop eating grass before he throws up could calculate so many different ways to get on the other side of that fence.
Our next project in the yard was—wait for it—a retaining wall. After far more months than it should have taken, we finished. Sometimes, I look out the window and see the wall the way everyone sees it, the way I saw Grandpa’s retaining wall—small, simple, unremarkable. But other times I remember how heavy those cements blocks were and, maybe, fleetingly, I feel just a piece of that pride I heard in my dad and grandpa’s voices. But then my gaze shifts to the shed that needs a new door and the fence that is falling over in places and the deck that needs a new step and…yeah, the moment passes.