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By BOB WIRE

Am I out of shape? Or just old? Or am I old and out of shape?

These are the questions rolling through my head, as I lie on my back in the grass of my yard, staring up at the fluffy blue clouds, wondering if I’m having a heart attack.

I had been scratching the dead grass out of the lawn with a leaf rake. It’s the spring ritual I loathe, mostly because it will encourage the grass to start growing, which will require me to mow this shit once a week.

But it’s been a long winter, and like a hibernating grizzly, I’ve spent most of the time in my den, watching fishing shows, scratching my fur, and squeezing off salmon-scented farts. But now spring is here, the sun is back, and it’s time to remember where I left the key to the Master lock on the garden shed.

So, while Barb and Speaker work in the vegetable garden, turning the soil and working in compost, I start work on my part of the deal: The lawn.

I’m allergic to grass, and when I mow I have to wear a respirator and goggles. At this early point in the season, though, I don’t bother with that stuff. But this weekend I discovered that the grass has actually come out of hibernation sooner than I did. It’s already starting to green up (especially the moss), and the terrifying, throat-constricting allergens are being loosed from the ground with every stroke of the rake.

Before I know it, I’m huffing and puffing, getting dizzy, and collapsing on the ground, gasping for breath, calling for the asthma inhaler and the Beefeater’s.

But to be completely honest (which I really never am. No, that’s a lie), I’m putting too much emphasis on the asthma aspect. The real problem is that, for a man in his late seventies, I’m in pretty good shape. Trouble is, I’m barely fifty. So within the first ten minutes of wielding the rake, my shoulders are shrieking with pain, my lower back throbs like it’s been hit with a baseball bat, and I can feel blisters rising on my hands inside the work gloves. I’m thinking there’s probably a machine or tool that does this much easier, but damned if I know what it is.

Bob Wire tames the mighty lawn.That's snow. Do you think I'm jumping the gun just a bit? 

So, lying on my back in the yard, waiting for my breath to return after raking up two cups or so of dead plant matter, I think back on what kind of physical activity I got over the winter.

I did go cross-country skiing once, but that was really more slapstick comedy than exercise. Still, after a couple of hours of that, my thighs were so sore it felt like I’d had a marathon session of rough sex with a kangaroo.

I did go to the gym to “work out” several times a week, but I think it was just enough to offset my massive intake of calories each day. I’m currently on the high-protein, high-carb diet, and it seems to work well with my everyday life. I typically eat only one meal a day. It starts when I get up, and ends just before I go to bed.

So I think it’s safe to say I don’t go out of my way to get any exercise. I haven’t been to the gym in six months, and I can’t remember why.

Usually, I’ll go out of town, get sick, injure a body part while sleeping, or something will come up that knocks me out of my routine, and I just fail to pick it back up. By the time I go back, I’ve forgotten the combination to my padlock, giving me a rock-solid excuse not to go at all.

Eventually, I was able to regain my breath, and in a couple hours (breaking every 15 minutes or so for a corn dog or chocolate chip cookie), I had the entire back yard raked. I filled a couple of yard bags with dead grass, and actually felt some sense of accomplishment.

I applied some weed ‘n feed to the grass, and now we’ll have a nice, lush, green lawn out back for some badminton, Frisbee, Texas washers, Bocce ball, and other sports you can play with a beer in one hand.

Now all I have to do is convince Barb how nice the front yard will look once it’s entirely paved over with blacktop.