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Column: Spring into action

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According to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”

I’ll have to take the 19th-century English poet’s word for it. To tell you the truth, I can’t remember what direction my fancy used to turn when it was young.

But this spring, this man’s fancy is turning lightly to something that elicits feelings quite the opposite of love … yard work.

My wife looks out the back window and says, “Oh dear spring, how long have we yearned for your return, and how we now celebrate yon tulips courageously raising their emerald leaves above the still cold ground, soon to dazzle us with an explosion of your beauty. Oh rejoice! Rejoice I say!”

Or something along those lines.

Unfortunately, I lack her gift for verse. I look out the back window and say, “Alas! (or something along those lines) I’m counting at least three dead shrubs. Oh alas! Alas I say!”

A few years ago a summer drought took out an entire row of arborvitae that served as a natural fence between our property and a neighbor’s. That same drought also killed a large burning bush in the backyard.

I was able to get a friend to pull his pickup into the yard. He hooked a chain around each dead shrub and pulled them all out of the ground in just a few minutes. But our neighbor’s yard is now fenced, and there is no longer a way to get a truck into our backyard.

The three shrubs that appear to have succumbed to the latest drought are not tiny bushes that can easily be removed or ignored. These are 10-foot-tall behemoths. Alive they were quite attractive. Dead they are gigantic eyesores. Ignoring them is not an option.

So while my wife looks out the window and sees the promise of beautiful flowers, I see the promise of long hours on the end of a shovel.

I guess I could have a chain saw-owning friend come over and cut them off at ground level. I’d still have to drag the remains around to the front of the house, but at least I wouldn’t have to dig up the roots.

But wait. Perhaps I’m jumping the gun. It’s early in the season. Maybe these three giant shrubs aren’t even dead. Maybe they are, in the words of Billy Crystal’s Miracle Max in “The Princess Bride,” “only MOSTLY dead.”

Perhaps a springtime miracle will replace all the brittle, yellow leaves with healthy green ones. I guess it could happen, but my money’s on the shovel.

If we get no springtime miracle and the three giant shrubs in the back are, as Miracle Max would say, “all dead,” I guess we can do without them.

But alas, recently this man’s fancy has turned to the front yard, where some of the shrubs that run the full length of the house are turning the same sickly yellow as their three backyard brothers.

As I said, we can do without the shrubs in the back if we must. But if any in the front die, we’ll have to replace them, if only to prevent our landscaping from resembling a veteran hockey player’s smile.

Or maybe I could simply get a bulldozer-owning friend to …

“Advance, O mighty blade, and remove yon offensive vegetation from this old man’s sight!”

Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or

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