The Earth shook and lightning struck.


LawnSite Member
Gathersburg, MD
The Earth shook in 1971 as it was want to do on that spine of volcanic ridge between the America’s called the Isthmus of Panama. I sat up at the first tremors - in time to witness the large ceramic lamp leap from the bedside table and crash into my pillow. I learned that night to understand the land we live on. I was seven years old a Wisconsin born “Gringo” growing up in paradise. My early life was spent running about outside half naked with out a care in the world. I never dreamed of being a lawn care professional.
The United States Government provided our housing. The Panama Canal Commission cut our lawns. Any landscaping was pretty much tramp into the jungle pull up some cool looking plant and stick in the ground where you wanted it. Most of the plants ended up in containers that moved around and frequently changed with the mood of my mother. The tropics are a riot of color. Even the boring green shrubs were not just plain green. They were all weird shapes and values of green or striped and veined. The containers used were brightly colored just so they could compete with the vegetation.
With only two seasons - rainy or dry - the grass was either, green and growing constantly, or dormant and dry. That grass was slippery when wet and we would jump on plywood boards after a good rain skimming along at a good clip. When it was dry - out would come the cardboard boxes and down the many steep hills we would slide. Both activities created wear patterns that would make a northern lawn care professional cry to see. Down there, in two to three weeks, the grass would be back with out any help from professional seeding or sod. Grass was the living carpet that supported our bare feet as we romped and played. It just Was and no thought was ever given by me on maintaining it.
Lightning struck in 1979. Huge bolts slammed into earth, into trees, into homes. A huge tropical storm swung inward dumping 10 inches of rain an hour. And me marveling at the display – running through the jungle shirtless, shoeless, uncaring unaware that Carter was giving away my home. I was soon to learn how easy it is for paradise to be ripped from my grasp.
I was disoriented by Carter’s betrayal. I was sent off to college in the United States. Like all college students who knew not what they were destined for I studied Fine Arts and English. Working in different retail jobs off and on I managed to stay in five different colleges and universities for ten years. Then one day a friend of my cousins showed up at my latest “Art School” and convinced me to help him start a Restaurant. I did - only to lose it to the mob (there are five of the restaurants now all running with my business model in place). I guess I didn’t learn that lesson about paradise being ripped from my grasp.
So there I was paradise lost twice and desperately needing work so I could eat and pay my own way. My Aunt a golfer all her life sends me to her favorite golf course to talk to the Super. He offers me six dollars an hour to cut grass. This at the time was in the richest county in the United States and I’m accepting six dollars an hour. It didn’t take them long to realize that babble spewing from my mouth was fluent Spanish as I worked along side the Hispanic help. Those six dollars rapidly became eight then ten all in the first six months. Not only could I communicate with 85% of the workers I also was blessed with a wonderful work ethic. I arrived on time every day and sober. Plus I really liked it out there on that grass riding around in the sun.
A year went by and Both the super then the first assistant were fired and I was left holding the fort. I was not happy when they did not make my acting superintendent position permanent after two months. Instead the company hired an absentee Super to manage me from a far. I could feel that little bitty paradise slipping in my grasp. An irrigation-consulting firm who recognized my many gifts and talents rescued me. They offered me twice my salary and benefits. Two weeks later I had my own office with 60% fieldwork traveling up and down the northeast consulting on million-dollar irrigation installs. Then the dot com monies vanished and there was no need for an extra consultant in training. The earth shook and lightning struck paradise gone again.
Needing again to provide for myself I sharpened my pencil and cleaned my mouse ball. I hired myself out as a freelance graphic artist and web designer. I knew those ten years of Art and English studies were good for something. But alas I was back inside staring at a monitor all day. This was no paradise. I wanted my sun and grass again.
So I joined a lawn care company to get back outside. All they did was weed, feed and seed. And made Money!
The Earth shook and lightening struck. I saved for one year and bought two 36” Exmark Metros, two Echo Trimmers, two Echo backpack blowers, one 18” push mower, one Echo hedge trimmer, One Echo chainsaw, one 16” trailer, and a GMC 2500 to haul it all. With a word in Spanish to one of the workers who had followed me from the golf course to the lawn care company I was off on my own. All this was so that I would be able to cut lawns while I passed my Pest Applicator exam.
Licensed, insured, and expanding I am again living in paradise with an ear to the ground and an eye to the sky - Listening and watching for the rumbling of the Earth and the flashing of the lightning.


LawnSite Member
Rollinsford, NH
My friend, you have a gift for expressing yourself in words - your story is both inspirational and poetic. A creative artist in the lawncare world, I love this line of work! Best of luck...Tony

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