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Archive for September, 2010

On the street where we live…

We live in a large metropolitan area together with four million other people… a busy, booming metropolis with trucks and busses on the main roads and cranes in the skyline. In contrast, our street is quiet and peaceful. It has no sidewalks and dead-ends in a large cul-de-sac.

Most of our neighbors have young families. The little kids play freely on the street without worrying about cars. They ride their bicycles, roller skate, toss balls and frisbees and the little ones play with dolls. They love to use colored chalk to draw pictures and crazy designs on the asphalt. In the heat of summer they put on their bathing suits and run through sprinklers and over water slides. When they get tired of it all they come knocking on the door and sing songs or sell lemonade.

While some of our neighbors play golf occasionally at public fee courses, none (other than my wife and I) belong to private clubs. These men and women are devoted to their families, and golf is not a high priority. There are several stay-at-home mothers but in most cases both parents work. After school and on weekends, kids partake in other activities such as hockey, karate and dancing, but mostly they play on the street with their friends.

It is not surprising that in multicultural Toronto my next door neighbor was born in Tehran. He fought in the Iran-Iraqi war, came to Canada, married a woman from Portugal, and their two daughters go to a Catholic school. Other neighbors hail from Russia, India, Lebanon, Jamaica and Trinidad, to name but a few.

On our street in Florida, where we live during the winter, virtually all our neighbors are retired American folks and Canadians are a distinct minority. Except for a Dutch couple, there are no other foreigners. The only time we get to see kids is when they come to visit their grandparents during school breaks and at Christmas time. Many of our Florida friends have lost their spouses and keep a small dog for companionship. Early in the morning and again in late afternoon, they walk their ‘dustmops’. It gets the old folks out of their homes and talking to their neighbors.

As the denizens in our Florida community get older, however, they give up on golf but many continue to hawk balls on the course…

Many of our Florida neighbors are active golfers. In fact, we live on a golf course about a half hour from Tampa airport. As the denizens in our Florida community get older, however, they give up on golf but many continue to hawk balls on the course. During garage sales in the spring, there are baskets of balls and also sets of clubs for sale at bargain basement prices. We have a community center with an Olympic size pool and all sorts of activities, including a weekly poker game. There is none of that on our street in Canada.

Five years ago we started a street BBQ in the neighborhood. Because we have a large lot with shade trees, our place was deemed most suitable and we have hosted it ever since. It’s been a huge success that people look forward to. Everyone brings something like a salad or a dessert. We cook burgers and hotdogs. There is always too much to eat. Most importantly, it gets people out of their houses and talking to each other.

The success of our Florida BBQ inspired us to do the same on our street in Canada. It was well received and will become an annual event.

Finally, in both Canada and Florida, I no longer cut the grass. Strong men trim the St Augustine turf in Florida and the bluegrass in Canada and I just stand there and watch, just as I always did on the golf course for so many years…

Retirement…

There comes a time when retirement will loom on your professional horizon. It usually happens during your late 50s, and it will prey on your mind as the magical number ’65’ nears.

It may be that you are being encouraged to go sooner, rather than later, by the new generation of golfers who feel rightly or wrongly that you have not kept up with the times. They are anxious to move you out and replace you with the talented new breed of superintendents who will bring faster greens and close cut fairways. If you have not felt these vibes in your later years, you are probably part of a small minority who live in never-never land.

It has been eleven years since I retired. I had been feeling the pressures of a small number of malcontents — mostly A flight players — who wanted new blood in the Turf Care Center. I resisted this group until I turned 65, and then departed in a blaze of glory. Everybody loves you when you leave. They even made me an honorary member… a questionable benefit since in some jurisdictions it is taxable benefit (check it out)! One month later I cashed my first pension check.

For 27 years I had contributed to the club newsletter, writing mostly about greenkeeping, the wildlife and the beauty of the landscape. Following is my ‘swan song’ written during the last summer of the 20th century:

“This is my last article for the golfers of the Toronto Board of Trade Country Club. I look back with great satisfaction at all the work we have done since my arrival in early 1973. There is no greater joy than to see the results of one’s efforts. At times on my walks over the course, I climbed to the promontory behind the seventh green to where the statue of a golfer once stood. I would sit on the remaining stump and look out over the valley. It’s a majestic view of vast green spaces, of groves of trees and a pond sparkling in the sunshine.


Many members have asked me if I will miss the golf courses (45 holes) once I am gone? Of course I will. I’ll miss the quiet mornings at dawn before the golfers arrive. I’ll miss touching freshly mowed greens before they have been played on and the sight of neatly cut fairways, with light and dark colored stripes in perfect parallel.

Most of all, I’ll miss the song of birds perched on trees that I have planted, and the flight of red-tailed hawks as they circle overhead looking for prey in the Audubon rough below.

I’ll also miss the inspiring company of energetic young men and women who have toiled on our courses to make them a better place to play on. However I swear I will not miss that despicable 11th green. I am convinced that it has been hexed by the ghost of my predecessor. We have repaired and rebuilt it numerous times but to no avail. In spite of all our greenkeeping skills, the 11th has never quite measured up to the other greens.

Finally, I will miss the friendly faces of all the golfers who came out day after day and offered words of encouragement when the going was tough. I especially want to thank the many members who enjoyed my writing in the newsletter. It started me on a second career as writer of hundreds of articles and several books, a career that is still in progress.”

Of course, I did not really retire. I had acquired ownership of a lovely piece land on which we built a 9-hole course, but that’s another story.