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Jeff Whitten: Pampas grass to get gone
editor's notes

I was resting in the sunshine with a cold drink after a hard day’s yard work Sunday when I noticed a little herd of lizards had crawled out of the depths of a mutilated pampas grass and were giving me dirty looks.

I didn’t blame them a bit. I’d just whacked their habitat another degree or two into a stumpy mess, a shell of its former self, and I didn’t feel good about it.

In fact, I felt the same twinge of remorse I imagine a big shot developer feels when he clear cuts 50 acres of beautiful wildlife habitat to make room for another strip mall or truck stop. Or maybe not.

But in my case it was sincere. I told the lizards I was sorry but that 20-something-yearold clump of pampas grass is marked for extinction -- it’s only a matter of when it’s all gone. My wife, I explained, has regretfully developed a hatred for that particular pampas grass, it being one of several mammoth examples of its species decorating the yard at Chez Beverly.

She brought up her dislike again about a month ago whilst we were piddling around in the yard. “I hate that thing,” she said, steering me toward the pampas grass. “It looks awful.”

I had to agree, though at the time I didn’t realize it was harboring a sizable colony of the good kind of lizards, the little ones that don’t look like they could take a toe off if you got too close.

Anyway, the pampas grass was rundown and seedy and rumpled, sort of like me. But the thing was the size of a VW Beetle. Maybe two VW Beetles. I stared at it a while. It stared back.

“You should get a chain and hook it up to your truck and just yank it out,” said my wife, a practical and kind woman but unversed in the mechanics of putting chains on giant clumps of pampas grass and pulling them up by the roots. For that matter, so am I.

Still, I had a pretty good notion it might not be a good idea. “I don’t think my truck is big enough,” I said. “I’ll cut it down and hack up the roots. It’ll be good exercise.”

“Uh huh,” she said. “I can do it in half a day,” I told her. “No sweat.” “Uh huh,” she said.

The half a day came on a Saturday while my wife was out and about and I had the yard to myself. I gathered my trusty bush axe I hadn’t used since 2005, and some loppers, and the small electric chainsaw I keep handy to cut firewood, a couple of rakes and my wheelbarrow, and got to work. I might’ve even whistled, at first.

But it was slow going, made slower by my remembering fun facts like the one that says snakes enjoy living in pampas grass, a truth reinforced by my having seem them slither in there on occasion when they didn’t think I was looking. What’s more, an old yard cat who went AWOL years back used to hole up in the thing and no matter how much I might’ve liked that cat I didn’t want to stumble across his mortal remains, which with my luck would be guarded by king cobras. There’s nothing scarier on this planet than a king cobra.

Anyway, I kept at it, alternating between taking mighty whacks with the bush axe, stopping to look around my feet for snakes, lopping with the loppers, looking for snakes, and wading in with the chain saw – which kept getting pampas grass wrapped around its inner parts, forcing me to stop and take the saw apart to get the grass out so it would work again, and then repeating the whole idiotic process. Every so often I’d fill up a wheelbarrow load with pampas grass and wheel it over to the side yard and dump it where my wife wouldn’t see it and make me move it somewhere else.

By 4 p.m. I’d done all the damage to myself I could do and was thirsty. The pampas grass was still two-thirds the size it had been.

I limped to the fridge, grabbed a cold adult beverage and, torn between wanting to blow the thing up or just mow it down with a tractor and be done with it, went online looking for bush hogs and/or dynamite on the cheap.

I ended up buying a “brush cutter,” which when it came a few days later turned out to be a hopped up weedeater with a blade and some other attachments. Included in the box was a minimalist set of instructions that assumed one already know how to put the thing together. Disclaimer: While some Youtubers can reroof a house or overhaul an engine or replace the inner workings of a toilet in five minutes, it takes me considerably longer. For one thing, I tend to drop parts, or put them down and then forget where I put them, or put something on backwards and have to take

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