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Crab Grass

January 3, 2017 , ,

Ernie in Coffeeville

Ernie in Coffeeville

The perfectly manicured green grass shimmers in the bright morning sun as we take out the lawn bowling set that belonged to our great-grandfather. He was both a lawn perfectionist and a lawn bowler, a rare combination none of his children or grandchildren has encountered again in life.  He took great pains to keep the crabgrass out and the healthy green grass trimmed evenly. His yard was his pride and joy. His children were enslaved in landscaping work during the time they lived in their father’s home. Like Claude Monet it appeared that Jason cared more about his garden than he did about his children’s happiness.  Because of his particular love of lawn perfection and startling indifference to humans his children called him Crab Grass behind his back.

When my grandfather was young he left home with his brother because they were not fond of Crab Grass, and even less fond of his wife, their stepmother.  She claimed to be a witch , but she was known as a con artist.  She was a Cherokee woman who would arrive in a town saying she knew where Tecumseh had buried gold in the vicinity.  She would then scam the townspeople to bankroll an expedition to find the hidden treasure, then leave.  When she met our great-grandfather he was a snake oil salesman.  He peddled patent medicine and introduced his second wife to his family as a witch capable of harming them.  The boys’ birth mother had died young, leaving them with old Crab Grass and this con woman/witch,  living on the Cherokee Nation. Ernie and his brother Ralph ran away to become migrant workers, picking corn and doing other agricultural work all over the Midwest.  They worked in the season, then returned to their grandparents’ farm in Kansas during the winters.  They rarely visited their father, who lived in a nearby town in Oklahoma.

When great-grandfather Jason died his wife wanted to get rid of the lawn bowling set because she said it was haunted.  Nobody recalls which member of our family accepted the large burlap bag full of heavy balls that he had used almost every day of his life.  The family did not give it a second thought until the spooky feeling that accompanied the bag became obvious.  A family meeting had been called to decide what to do with this creepy inherited game set.  It was decided that the bag would travel from home to home, staying for a period of a year each time.  Since 1927 this lawn bowling set has brought tragedy, mystery, and wealth to our family.  It has acted as a Ouija board, seeming to be directed by spooks, to foretell the future. It seems to be inhabited by the spirit of our ancestor. His restless soul still wants to play his favorite game.  Since he is not longer incarnate we figure it can’t hurt to keep the game going for his amusement.  As we play on our own lawns now we wonder exactly what we inherited from all our relations.  It is far from clear.


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Wow.. “crab grass” sure has an entirely different connotation in your life. . Lawn bowling as a geiger counter of all kinds of things is really interesting. Clearly his spirit lives on in that equipment.


Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

January 17, 2017

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