My dad had a fool-proof plan to get his yard-work done easily and painlessly (for him). Let the leaves and tree debris pile up pretty high in the fall and spring. Mention casually a couple of times, “You kids are gonna’ have to clean up this yard in a few days.” Let a couple of days pass so they hope you’ve forgotten or gone blind. Come home from work on Friday afternoon in a jovial mood. This works best if you are normally a real grouch. It’s best if one of your brothers is visiting and your kids ask to spend the night with Cousin Becky, Susan, or Joey. Implement step #1
“No, Y’all have to clean the yard tomorrow, but they can stay with you if they want to help.”
He was serious about them staying, always hoping to get a little of work out of them. Even though there were no Einstein’s in our family, no cousin was ever that dumb.
“No, I am not staying! I don’t wanna’ clean the yard!” They were in the car before the screen door slammed.
Step #2 The next morning he’d roll us out at six am, anticipating a good day. We didn’t talk much at breakfast, especially avoiding the words yard, sweep, work, and leaves. It’s amazing how often a word jumps out when you are studiously avoiding it. “Billy didn’t LEAVE any jelly for me.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll get all the LEAVES you want today.” He made crappy jokes, playing on our dread.
Finally, he’d push his chair back, “Time for the friendships to end and the work to begin.”
I would have enjoyed flailing the genius from whom he’d picked up that cruel witticism. He routed us into the one-acre yard where the lecture began. “Now, get the wheelbarrow, rake, and yard broom. I want all these sticks picked up first. Then one of you can rake, the other sweep and the other pick up the leaves and haul them back yonder to the burn pile. Now, I mean for this yard to be clean when I get home.”
With that, he was off to whatever he had planned that day. The task looked endless, with drifted leaves from dozens of trees, shrubs, and fallen sticks. I would have gladly traded places with Sisyphus and his rock.
We had to fight a while before we got started. Phyllis was the oldest, so she commandeered the yard broom, the prize implement. Billy and I got stuck with the rake and wheelbarrow for loading and hauling leaves. Of course, we had to fight a while before we made a good start. Mother usually brought the little girls out and redirected us before she got back to her work of the day.
Step #3 Cleaning that yard would have been a huge job for a yard-proud person. Three fighting kids cleaning a yard didn’t go that well. The first time or two, we were of the mistaken belief we could make a pathetic excuse and get by with a half-done job. Daddy was of the opinion that no well-balanced kid could get through a day without a good whooping, anyway, so he was happy to oblige. He frequently quoted, “I might as well whip y’all first thing in the morning and get it over with.” A few stripes paid off handsomely in the next day’s efforts, and he had the satisfaction of knowing he hadn’t “spared the rod and spoiled the child.” We were motivated to do the job right.
Yes, indeed, Daddy knew how to get his yardwork done in three easy steps. Just so you know, I am not advocating this plan.