My neighbor called me "the junk man."

Actually, what he said was, "Wow, you're becoming the neighborhood junk man!"  

And he said it in an awe-filled voice that meant he was impressed, not in that scornful voice my wife uses when she says it. He meant it as a compliment. Because I get so much stuff for free, see? 

The latest freebie was a bunch of dirt and sod. Which was a really good find, because my front yard has been primarily dirt for two years now. It's not like that stuff just grows on the ground.   

This wasn't the first free sod I'd picked up. About a year ago someone put a big pile by the street, with a hand-written sign that said, "FREE TAKE IT." I took it to be legit because of the lack of punctuation. So I loaded up and took the sod home. In my brain, it was enough to cover the whole front yard, and I danced the dance of happy dancing! Internally. 

But it turned out to be just enough to put a rim of grass along the edge of the driveway and the street. Leaving my yard to look a little like those bald guys with hair on the sides of their heads. Not terrible, but not Fabio.  

I should back up a bit and say that the reason my yard was primarily dirt is because almost two years ago I had a brilliant idea. The patchiness of my yard was slow to fill in. We'd lived in the house for a few months already, and the grass wasn't quite taking over at the rate of speed I would prefer. I was watering regularly, and my mud crop was definitely in bloom, but the grass was taking its sweet time. 

And then the road crews came.  

They had the street in front of my house torn to chunks, and a bunch of dirt was dug out and piled to one side. It was a dark black, and to my mind seemed full of life-giving nutrients. I wanted to eat it. Better yet, I figured my yard might like eating it. So when the guys were cleaning up and dumping dirt into a truck to haul away, I asked if they'd dump some of it on my lawn and spread it around. 

And they did.  

I was pretty proud of this little trick. I'd just gotten free dirt. Not only that, I had a crew of guys spread it out on my lawn for me. Free dirt and  no work? WIN.

Later, my brother-in-law spoiled it for me. "You know they put a lot of lime in the soil when they put a street in, right? To keep the grass from growing?" 

Crap. 

So, two years later, I have some rich-looking black soil as a yard, and no grass. So when I found the sod, I was happy enough to give it a go. And you know, it held up pretty well. Sure, some of it died, but when Summer finally came back the stuff I'd planted started to green out again. If I could get some more free sod, I'd have it made! 

And the universe answered. 

My father-in-law had a pool and patio put in. His yard was a wreck, so he had some guys bring out some dirt and sod and re-do the whole yard. And it looks great . But luckily, for this Webslinger, there was some dirt and sod left over.

"Wow!" I thought. "That's enough to cover my whole yard!" And I happily took the whole load and rushed straight home to put it down. 

I am woefully ill-equipped to judge how much sod will cover my yard.  

I'm beyond the fringe of temple-hair now, but not by much. I was able to cover roughly half the yard. The dirt was easy enough to spread out over the whole thing, but the grass only covered one half. Depending on which direction you're driving on my street, though, I now have a very nice-looking yard/horrible looking mud pit. 

And my neighbor, upon first seeing it, says, "Hey, that's Bermuda grass. The rest of your lawn is St. Augustine." 

"Exactly my plan," I said. "I'm going to let them fight it out, winner takes all." 

I think ahead on these things. 

"So you got this sod for free, too?" 

"Oh yeah." 

"Wow, you're becoming the neighborhood junk man!" 

"Thanks, Neighbor," I said. Because he did mean it as a compliment. This is the same guy who told me that one corner of my house was the "Van Gogh corner," because part of the siding was replaced with wood putty and painted over. I'm not sure why that makes it a Van Gogh, but I consider it a valuable treasure now. 

So the moral of the story is that if you wait long enough you will get what you want or need for free. Or half of it, at least. And you will be the neighborhood junk man. Let your grass grow free.

 


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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