Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

The Blower BrigadesThe sounds of the season are upon us — and I ain’t talkin’ the first rendition of “Jingle Bells” as merchants launch their Christmas sales on Labor Day.

Instead, I speak of leaf blowers.

Poke your head outside any waking hour between now and late winter, and you’ll hear blower brigades blaring loudly.

Some folks object to this noise. They would prefer the more subtle, soothing sound of rake tines. A quarter-century ago, before leaf blowers evolved from casual trinkets to everyman lawn care necessities, I’d receive occasional phone calls about them from angry homeowners.

“Those (blankety-blank) things have ruined fall!” was the gist of this ire. “They’re too loud! Whatever happened to raking leaves the old-fashioned way?”

I always noted an important factor about these calls. In nearly every instance, they came from posh neighborhoods where leaf-gathering chores were assigned to the hired help.

No wonder Mr. and Mrs. Bigbucks were upset! They couldn’t sit on the veranda, sip cocktails, and enjoy a peaceful fall afternoon while Booger, Joe Billy, and Earl Gene were out there doing all the “scritch-scritch-scritching.”

T’was ever thus, I suppose.

I’m too young to remember when the only sound of recreational transportation on lakes, rivers and streams came from oars, paddles and sails flapping in the breeze. There was no internal combustion interference back then. And even after outboards did arrive, what began as the quiet “putt-putt” from the occasional six-horse Johnson has escalated these days to the jet-roar of twin 250s.

So yes, I do understand. On land or water, noise pollution is a problem.

But I also know it isn’t going away anytime soon—even though newer leaf blowers and outboards are considerably more muffled than the originals.

If that makes me an industry apologist, so be it. When your house is plunked in the middle of a forest, as mine is, you jockey a leaf blower from September through New Year’s. It’s a decidedly more efficient way to round up bazillions of calling cards from maples, oaks, hickories, sourwoods, dogwoods and other deciduous trees after their autumnal beauty fades.

It’s much easier on the arms, elbows and shoulders, too. Especially, ahem, if you’re dealing with rotator cuff issues.

Yet as I work my way across the yard, it never ceases to amaze me how some individual leaves flaunt the laws of aerodynamics.

They stubbornly refuse to be lifted into flight, no matter the hurricane swirling inches away. All it takes is a bent stem in the grass, or a serrated edge clinging to vines, or a spine caught just-so beneath an exposed root, and you’d swear they were anchored in concrete.

Go ahead. Varoom to your heart’s, or temper’s, content. They won’t budge.

For Pete’s sake, I’ve even seen certain leaves remain welded in place until the blower angle is slightly adjusted. Then they rocket off to parts unknown. Amazing.

That’s one problem Booger, Joe Billy, and Earl Gene didn’t have to worry about as they “scritch-scritch-scritched” across Mr. and Mrs. Bigbucks’ palatial lawn.

Sam Venable is an author, stand-up comedian, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel.
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