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The trouble is....

The new place now has sleeping capacity for the two daughters, two grandsons, and three great-grandkids at one whack.

Whoever made the statement, "People who go through the mill come out fine," should have conferred with me first. I have been through the mill, brother, and I've got more lumps than my dear wife's gravy. (When someone asks for gravy at our dinner table, the customary answer has always been, "One lump or two?")

Anyway, after all these years of coming out coarse from the mill, I figured Fate owed me one. That's the secondary reason I went along with our recent move to Panama City, Florida. The primary reason? This woman I took for better said to me one morning, after biscuits and two lumps of gravy, "We are moving to Panama City Beach, Florida."

What went through my mind at the time? How about: How could I possibly add to my scar tissue living in a brandnew house located on a level lot of a size that would allow me to cut the lawn in 15 minutes with a pair of scissors?

No more dismounting from a big red 11-horse Murray riding mower to pick up a tree limb in its path, only to have the dumb mower take off downhill unattended. No more chasing it halfway to the board fence along the road until it hit one of the posts, luckily, and gave up. I say luckily because otherwise it could have smashed through the fence, crossed the road, coasted down the gulch on the other side, and more than likely reduced the local pig population rather noticeably.

No more having to replace two boards dislodged from the post in question. No more trying to save time by sticking my head through the opening and nailing the boards back on from inside the fence rather than going to the gate and having to walk all the way back to the scene of operations. And once the boards had been restored and I had dropped the hammer, finding I couldn't remove my head without jeopardizing both ears.

No more belittlement from having my dear wife finding me pilloried in this fashion when coming down for the mail, and cheerfully picking up the hammer to batter off the top board, seemingly unconcerned that she was causing my head to bob around like a cork in a Jacuzzi.

Our Panama City Beach estate boasting but a single dwarf palm no taller than I could throw my leg over (not that I'm about to try it), no more outdoor pine tree for me to decorate with Christmas lights. This means no more climbing to the top step of the stepladder, trusting Dear Wife to steady it with one hand while handing me the string of lights for the uppermost branches with the other hand.

And no more having to listen to her explain why the ladder went over because the string of lights had been "snaggled." Or how she knew I'd be mad if she had handed me a string of snaggled lights. Better to risk the ladder capsizing and me being draped across the barbed wire line fence. Not to mention my abdominal region maintaining the conformity of a cribbage board well into the following week.

No more garden to rototill. No more confusing the "R" on the shifting mechanism to mean "Rototill" rather than "Reverse." No more having to leap sideways in a split second or be rototilled to the bone.

Yes, all that excitement lies back in Indiana. The only reversal to be suffered here is for my scissors for cutting the lawn coming down with a case of rust. Right? I say, right?

Oh, if you have time, I will mention one small black hole in this otherwise starry cosmos of stressless days and fretless nights.

Reserving the scissors for trimming only, I invested $124.95 in a dandy little push lawn mower. Just the right size, coincidentally, to be pushed by a woman, should a woman's push mode happen to coincide with the time the grass required mowing.

I say grass. What we have here would more easily pass for peat the citizens of Ireland burn for fuel. These squares of sod conceal the sand, but that's about it. I waited for five weeks after mowing before rolling the mower out to where my dear wife happened to be performing some sort of flora ritual over her camellia plant. Not that I expected her to drop her can of holy water (water in Panama City Beach retails in the neighborhood of a dime a drop, three for a quarter), and yell, "Oh, can I mow?" or anything like that. But I thought that perhaps when she saw me start the thing and heard how sweetly it purred, she might not be able to resist wresting the handle out of my grasp the second time around.

The trouble was, it didn't purr, sweetly or otherwise. The rope had come out no more than six inches and froze. Pull, tug, jerk, yank, haul, and any other means you can think of, that was it. I'd need a monkey wrench to monkey around with the nuts and bolts holding the dingus that houses the starting doohickey.

But who would think of needing a wrench in a brand-new house, right? My entire set of wrenches had been left snugly on a shelf in the shed of our lately owned estate at Freedom, Indiana, exactly 702 miles due north.

However, talk about luck. Only four miles up Back Beach Road, we had spotted a Home Helpers/ Ace Hardware store--my home away from home, as it would turn out.

Returning with our newly purchased monkey wrench, I spent at least ten full minutes (and Dear Wife half a day) trying to disengage the dingus from the doohickey. Tucking away my $35.00 check, the small-engine repairman said, "These sod pellets will require mowing about twice a year. If you want to get some use out of the mower, I suggest you go to Home Helpers and buy a 50-pound sack of Winter Rye."

Which I did. At $23.95.

Now, I have been to Salt Lake City. I have seen the statue honoring the seagulls winging in from the sea to save the Mormons' crops by gobbling up the grasshoppers bent on a fiber binge. And I'm sure that I'll be criticized for a lack of compassion toward our feathered friends, but. . .

No sooner had I begun scattering this $23.95 worth of winter rye, than a gull flying overhead yohoed to his buddies along the beach, "Hey, there's a guy over here spreading grass seed!"

You talk about gulls gobbling grasshoppers. By the time I had scattered the last nickel's worth of rye, you couldn't see the peat for the seagulls. Not only was the yard packed wing to wing, the tops of our board fence had disappeared beneath the rabble waiting for an opening.

Consider me heartless or not, I sowed the next $23.95 sack of winter rye after dark. But not to be concerned, gull lovers. Like the elephant, a gull never forgets. Isn't that the yard where the nice man feeds us grass seed until we are so stuffed we can hardly take off? Yep, he's done it again. Come one, come all. How about us erecting a statue of him?

One final state of affairs of no small consequence. When it comes to deployment of contents from a former house into a new house, the man of the house is but silly putty in the hands of the woman of the house. Especially if the former house would fit comfortably into the living room of the new house.

"We'll put the old bed in the spare bedroom," she says, "and buy new single beds for the master bedroom" (a relative term if there ever was one) "Call Salvation Army," she says, "to pick up the old sofa. It's much too small for this size living room." Things like that.

As a result, the warm, snug bed I practically grew up in has been replaced by a lackluster cot that threatens dismounting should I turn over without remembering the new arrangement.

As for our new sofa from Rhodes Furniture, it measures nine feet five inches along the wall and sticks out 7 1/2 feet into the room. The wall section folds out to form a kingsize bed. Counting the rest of the sofa and the extra bedroom, we now have sleeping capacity for two daughters, two grandsons, and three great-grandkids at one whack. I know this for a fact.

The great-grandkids each take three showers a day "to get sand out from between their toes." And they eat eight times a day because all that frolicking on the beach makes them hungry.

And you think you've got troubles.
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Title Annotation:couple moves to Panama City, Florida
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good; Trawin, Don
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1998
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