Leaf Drive

A cluster of crisp, pale-orange leaves twirled through the air and fluttered down to land with others I’d rounded up earlier. The leaves on the top of the growing mound impatiently twitched with each passing breeze. In my mind I played Frankie Laine singing the theme song of Rawhide. Using the leaf blower to herd another thick mat of leaves toward the pile, I gleefully sang along with my mind song, “Move ‘em on, head ‘em up. Rawhide! Keep movin’, movin’, movin’…”

Instead of accompanying cowboy shouts and snapping whips, the leaf blower purred as I rolled another batch of leaves to my leaf corral. “Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’.” With the happy memories of a cattle-drive television show that I had loved during my childhood and a little imagination, I was turning a boring job into fun. I smiled to remember how I had a big crush on the show’s actors when I was fifteen-years-old. I never did figure out who I liked more, Gil Favor or Rowdy Yates.

Looking up, I eyed the leaves that still clung to the maple tree branches. They were stubborn like cattle that refused to cooperate. Why hadn’t they joined the other leaves several days ago in their great stampede? For one glorious, windy hour, leaves fell like heavy snow.

The tree was stubborn in more than one way, it seldom turned a nice color, despite being a “sunset maple”. Each fall it stays green until all other trees are done turning colors. When the other trees drop their leaves, this tree finally begins the process. Each year the number of its leaves increases. Last year my hands blistered from raking. This year my sister had suggested I borrow her leaf blower. I eagerly accepted her offer.

Having never used a leaf blower before, I practiced rounding up stray leaves. I decided to make four or five huge piles. All I had to do then was load them onto tarps so I could put them into the garden for mulch. I opened a tarp next to my first pile and tried to blow the leaves onto the tarp. That didn’t work. At the first gust of wind, the tarp rose up like a kite. When it was out of the blower’s range, it dropped down into a useless, crumpled heap.

With a sigh, I recognized I’d have to use the rake a little bit, whether I wanted to or not. I spread the tarp open next to the pile of leaves again. Then using the rake, I stood on the edge of the tarp to hold it down and began to scoop bushel baskets of leaves off the lawn ono the tarp.

Thankful that I didn’t have to stuff the leaves into bags or move them with a wheelbarrow, I pulled the loaded tarp into the garden. Although this was an easy, boring job, it didn’t inspire me to mentally replay a television show theme song.

This spring I had discovered a rosemary plant had survived the winter in the garden. I was surprised, because it’s a warm climate plant. It had sheltered under the foliage of another plant. I wondered if I covered it with a pile of leaves this fall, maybe it would live to see a third summer.

Gardens need organic material to beef up the soil. Leaves, used in moderation, is one of my ways of providing what is needed. A fellow gardener once commented to me, “Leaves feed the soil.”

I’d answered with a grin, “Yup, like fiber in the diet for humans.”

Done for the day, I turned to inspect the lawn under the tree. It was still cluttered with leaves despite the five loaded tarps I had removed. I shrugged and thought, “Thank heavens I’m not a perfectionist.”     

As I walked into the house, another line from the Rawhide theme song came to my mind. “Through rain and wind and weather – Hell bent for leather”.  I wondered, “What did that mean?” Gill Favor and Rowdy Yates never pushed the cattle to go fast, otherwise the animals would lose too much weight before arriving at market.

Then it struck me. They finished their job no matter what happened. Because the tree drops its leaves so late in the fall, I had been worried that it would snow before they fell. But if it had snowed, I knew I would have raked them up along with snow. As a leaf-drive cowgirl, I wasn’t about to let rain, wind or weather hold me back.

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