JENKINS: An open message to neighborhood lawn police

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

Twice in the past eight years I've written about homeowners' associations -- specifically, my homeowners association. The first of those columns was not exactly positive, the second considerably moreso.

Let's just say the pendulum has swung once again.

Oh, I understand the reasons for neighborhood covenants and HOAs. They're necessary to prevent people from raising goats in their backyard or using their basements as crack houses or putting 1972 Camaros up on cinder blocks in their driveways.

And I know how difficult it is to get good people to serve as HOA officers. It's almost as difficult as finding good people to serve in Congress -- although, even with our differences, I'll take my HOA over Congress any day of the week.

But I also know that, human nature being what it is, as soon as some people get a little authority they tend to assume they have more than they really do. That's just as true in a Lawrenceville subdivision as it is in the nation's capital.

For example, I know the people who walk our neighborhood with notebook and pen. But what I'd like to know is, who appointed them as the lawn police, final arbiters in the age-old "Is it grass, or is it a weed?" argument.

Hey, I've never pretended to be a yard guy, one of those people who spend every weekend manicuring their lawns for the yard-of-the-month contest. That's because, well, I have a life.

I've also been pretty open about my philosophy on landscaping: If it's green and it grows in your yard, it's grass. Keep it neatly trimmed and, from a respectful distance, nobody can tell the difference.

So where does some busybody with a clipboard get off telling me I have too many weeds in my yard? What makes them weeds? Did she take DNA samples? And how many is too many? Did she count them blade by blade? (I'm actually afraid to know the answers.)

To her, my yard may seem "weedy." To me it's eclectic, diverse, open to all types of grasses regardless of race, creed or soil of origin. A veritable melting pot of ground covers.

Lawn police, take note: My yard looks fine. I mow it once a week, give or take a few days. I keep my hedges trimmed, my sidewalk edged, my flower beds pine-strawed. That's all I have time for, because, once again, unlike some folks, I have a life.

If you happen to walk by and see a few blades of crabgrass among the Bermuda, or if the lawn is an eighth of an inch longer than your arbitrary limit, get over it. No more nasty, ungrammatical letters berating me for trivial and imaginary infractions. The next one will be shredded and fed to the goats.

Hey, at least they keep my backyard nice and short.

Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English and director of The Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.