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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ode to a Hedge

Several prior posts in this blog have referenced my family’s move to an old house on Main Street when I was 16 years old.  The home had been a boarding house in the late 1800s when it was built and in fact, Camilla Eyring Kimball (before she married Spencer W.) lived there while she taught Home Economics at the Millard Academy.

At some point there was a fire at the old boarding house which completely consumed the upper story of the building.  The first floor was repaired and left as a single dwelling, but it was very strangely laid out.  It had stood empty for quite a number of years when my parents bought it for $1500 in 1978.

I can still recall the prevailing smell of stink bugs and mice droppings and the mess we had to clean up before we could start moving in. My Dad added two good-sized additions onto it, one was a kitchen.  When we moved in, we had to do the cooking in our camp trailer because the old kitchen had only a wood-burning cook stove.  

One of the most remarkable aspects of the old place was the giant front lawn and the 8-foot-high and 4-foot-deep hedge that grew around three edges of the property up to the sides of the home.

I was designated as the official hedge keeper.  My dad purchased an electric trimmer and several 100 foot cords.  I used a 7-foot step ladder and it would take me two entire days to trim that hedge.  Dad insisted it be done once a week during the growing season.
I always started on the southwest corner of the property and would work around the outside of the hedge on the first day.  I would start at the bottom working upwards, and then stand on the very top step of the ladder, reaching as far as I could; only attaining half of the top growth.  I worked around the outside perimeter on day 1 and the inside on day 2, conquering the other half of the top along with the inside surface.

It would be nearly dark on the second day as I finished raking up the mountain of trimmings, put away my equipment, and coiled up the cords.

The plus side of this job was how tanned I became from working outside in the summer sun; I was especially dark those years I perched on the top of a stepladder two full days a week.  Also, there was the social factor of the position.  Our home was right next to the store on Main Street, so I often had visitors stop to chat as they came and went from Morris Mercantile.

I returned home the summer after my freshman year at Utah State University and resumed my role as trimmer, but had to work it differently because I had a full-time job at Channel One, the satellite TV station.  That summer I had to work on the hedge in the evenings after work; I would start about 6:30 and work until dark each night.  As soon as I got completely around both sides of the monster, I would start over again.

Fall of 1981, I returned to USU with Thanksgiving as my first visit home.  Sometime before that, I received a letter from my friend, Lynette, telling me that my dad had taken his chainsaw and cut several feet of height from the hedge.  Going home equipped with this information, I was still shocked when I pulled up to our house and saw the hedge was only about half its previous height.  A year later Dad took another foot off the top of the hedge.  I always figured no one else in my family was able to spend 20 hours a week all summer on that yard chore.

My parents moved away from that house in 1986 leaving a stubby three-foot hedge around the house.  Two years ago when Camille and I went to Hinckley for the 24th of July celebration, the hedge around that house was completely gone. It seemed so strange to be able to see the entire house and property from the street.  During my years as Hedge Keeper, our hedge had given the home such privacy and a sense of mystique and ambiguity shrouded behind the high, dense wall of leaves; with the front gate being the only entrance into the deep green and mysterious yard.  Looking back on that weekly duty for three summers of my life, I am grateful for the opportunity to have had an important task that allowed our house to have a unique look and feel of seclusion we cherished as Main Street dwellers.

1 comment:

Tina said...

wonderful flashback! Ah yes, my parents garden got a lot smaller after we kids had left. (Could it be that they didn't eat as much??, no, I think they just don't have us around to weed it) As soon as we finished weeding our HUGE garden, we'd have to start at the first row again. Kinda like your hedge, I'm thinking. Growing a hedge like that would have been quite a feat in the middle of the Utah desert! Too bad it is gone :(