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Not a Chance from the Get-Go

John W. Pinkerton


I’ve never liked mowing grass.  My wife, Linda, claimed to love it.  I have watched her struggle with the lawnmower: she’s a small woman not suited for such work.

When George, not his real name, showed up one day at our home about a quarter century ago, I thought he was a temporary answer to a long term problem, Linda moving the yard.  Twenty-five years later, he was still mowing our yard. 

Linda from the first mowing was not happy with the job her replacement was doing---he missed mowing a strip, he set the lawnmower too high, he butchered an area.   Linda assigned nefarious motivations for his lack of excellence.  I, on the other hand, had the attitude that he was a yardman, not a rocket scientist, and although I pointed out to George the “mistakes” he made, they weren’t important in my mind.  Frustrated with her frustration, I gave George’s supervision to Linda.  As it turns out, Linda has been more generous with George than I ever was.

When George first showed up to work for us, I was physically capable of doing most of the tasks that I asked George to do.  They were, for the most part, things I simply did not want to do or things I didn’t want to take the time to do.

I recall that a pretty large  tree had fallen  in the backyard.  It didn’t damage anything, but needed to be cut up and removed.  I showed George my chainsaw, instructed him in its use, parked my old truck near the tree and departed to do work at the school.  A couple of hours later I returned to find that the tree had moved from the yard to the bed of the pickup.  How he got that entire tree in the truck is beyond my understanding.   Impressive.

There is a portion of our house’s roof which is nearly flat and accumulates a lot of leaves in the fall.  Removing the leaves is simple: just use a push broom and let the leaves accumulate in the yard to be raked and bagged.  I once had him get on the roof to remove leaves which were causing it  to leak in a steep portion of the roof.  He accomplished  the mission, but I decided that was way too dangerous to repeat.

Years ago, I placed gutters in the front and back of our house.  After a few years of watching the gutters in the back fail because the run was too long, I removed it, but left the one in the front.  Occasionally, I’d have him clean it out.

In the fall, our two huge oak trees shed their leaves, and after supplying George with about fifty lawn and leaf bags, he manages to sweep them up and bag them.  I suspect he doesn’t like this job, but I pay him well. 

Speaking of jobs he doesn’t like, because of my deteriorating health, I started asking him to paint masonite sheets (2’x4’s)  with gesso which I cut into canvases of various sizes.   I cut them myself because I suspected he just wasn’t up to this task, and I didn’t want to have to take him to the emergency room.  I’ve even asked him to move things around in my old garage which has become a storage unit.  I sit in a chair and direct the activities.


I’ve always tried to be fair with George.  I usually ask him how much he wants for a task he has performed.  He usually leaves it up to me.

His most frequent task, until recently, was mowing the yard.  He’s used our lawn mower and recently his lawn mower.  Lawn mowers don’t last long.  He has a leaf blower and a weedeater which he stores along with his lawn mower in our garage. 

My relationship with George has not been a personal one; however, he has called on us for help many, many times during the quarter century.  Food, medicine, and money have been his main requests.  We’ve always tried to be generous with him.

I realized early on that George has almost zero education, and, apparently, has received very little help from others.

He can’t read; this was verified recently when Linda told him that the instructions for the use of a medicine she gave him was on the bottle.

I once offered him a check in payment for some work he did.  He, apparently, had no idea how to cash it.

He told me he tried in school, but could not do it and finally gave up and quit.  He didn’t seem to blame the school.

He claims that he went to school when I taught there.  I have no memory of him.  Apparently he was special education and was not in high school long.

I know very little about his family.  He told me that he didn’t know who his father was until he was well past grown.

He’s worked for various companies through the years but has worked for a relative’s mowing business in  recent years.

A few years ago, George went off to a state prison for two years.  Being that I didn’t consider it any of my business, I never asked him what his offense had been.  I did ask him how he liked it.  He said he didn’t.

All forms of transportation seem to be traps for George.  Most folks have insurance, a license, and car inspections.  He seems to have a loose connection with these concepts which has cost him time in the county jail.  He recently got a costly ticket for not having lights on his bicycle.

Not long ago I spent the morning driving him to and from the county court house.  Don’t ask.  I didn’t.

I’ve been sorely tempted to part company with George through the years.  Not over his legal problems…over his neediness, but I never pulled the trigger. 

The truth is that in spite of the bother he has been, I like George: he has never stolen anything from us, and as far as I know, he’s never lied to me, and I guess the most important reason is that George never seemed to have much of a chance in life.


George is in trouble again.  He asked for some help with his bail money which I provided, but apparently it wasn’t enough to get him out.

I recently learned that George has received a two year sentence in Huntsville.  Don’t know his crime.  Don’t need to know.

In the meantime, the grass still grows with or without George.  We now have a lady I once taught to do the work---very efficient, less drama, but I do wish George the very best.  Bless his heart.  He didn’t seem to have a chance in life from the get-go.