Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Lawnmower Boogie‏

When my Mother was a girl in the Great Depression, she dreamed of grass in her yard. What she got instead was hard-packed dirt, just like everyone else. Grass was a luxury that took time and energy away from every family member spending every possible moment working in the fields. But Martha was resolute (read: stubborn). Someday, she would have her grass.

Fast forward to 1962 and two freaking ACRES of grass at our place in Friendship--and guess who got to mow it! Though money was tight that year, Martha figured out a way to get a riding lawnmower on time payments from Western Auto. I thought my eleven-year-old-hiney had been BORN in that mower seat. It was a summer of unimaginable drudgery, torture without end!

The only thing that saved me was the Channel Master transistor radio that she had bought for me earlier in the year. (see Before Labor Day, there was no point in having it with me on the mower. After that, there was all the difference in the world: KAAY!

With the earpiece jammed in my head, the Mighty 1090 pumped Brook Benton and The Orlons and The Impressions and Booker T and the MGs into my thankful brain at a level just about equal to a Briggs and Stratton mower engine. Grass clippings and dust up my nose were neatly offset by the Silver Dollar Survey in my ear.

Over the next spring and summer, KAAY brought the world to me on that mower--and then there was 1964. Beatles and Stones and Kinks and Animals and The Dave Clark Five were my afterburner. Grass went down like the stock market.

Though this audio/hardware hookup would continue until I went off to college in the fall of '68, the pinnacle of it all was, without a doubt, April of 1965. It was then possible to hear The Beatles' "Ticket To Ride" and The Beach Boys' "Help Me Rhonda" in the same grass-cutting session, sometimes even back-to-back! (Yes, it was a Monumental Mower Moment, and it marks in my mind the first time The Beach Boys proved that they could hang with The Beatles.)

So here I am in 2011, back where I grew up at the family home in Friendship. Mom and Dad are gone, and there's THREE acres of grass to mow now. I don't have my Channel Master anymore, but somehow I don't need it. Every time I climb on my 21st Century riding lawnmower, KAAY cranks up inside my head.

David B. Treadway
Doc Holiday VII
The Last PD

(Great story!  David B., I now use a little mp3 player with Beaker Street and KAAY audio loaded on it when I'm working by's like "being there again" and helps liven up the drudgery!  By the way, my grandmother in Castleberry, Alabama hated grass.  If the chickens didn't eat it, she was sweeping the yard with a broom to kill every blade she could!  We played in a dirt yard when we visited.  Bud S.)

1 comment:

  1. I wrote this piece well before the untimely passing of our great friend Jerry Sims, who will always live in my heart as The Middle Sonny Martin.

    It was the correspondence between Jerry and me--begun back in 2009, long before we met face-to-face--that made me remember what a huge part of my life that KAAY so quickly became back when I was young.

    Whenever I'd be outside, grown and returned to Friendship, taking care of the garden or mowing the interminable grass that my Mother left me, I'd think of KAAY. And Jerry. And how that old Mighty 1090 was still so alive in both our hearts!

    I'd remember listening to that OTHER skinny kid who dreamed of growing up to work at the big station in Little Rock. That other kid who saw his own dreams come true at such an early age--and who never forgot how he came up, either.

    And now the hellishly hot summer of 2011 begins to fade and the grass and the garden walk out of the tomb like Lazarus.

    Here in a few days, I'm going to have to saddle back up on that lawnmower and slay me some grass that I woulda SWORN was dead and gone at least until March.

    Only now I'll mount up alone and diminished by the loss of my man Jerry Sims.

    Or maybe NOT. Maybe I will not be surprised in the least to hear his voice jocking those Silver Dollar Survey Hits while I go about my chores.

    Fly free forever, Jerry. As long as those three towers shall stand in Wrightsville, your name will be remembered.

    In my heart, WAY longer.

    David B.