When Nature Comes at You, Break out the Gas-Powered Devices and Leave the Battery-Powered Ones at Home

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

My wife and I live in a bucolic area of Santa Barbara County. Most of our neighborhood is populated with horses, chickens, coyotes, and other bucolicy things...

While we don't have livestock ourselves, we do have an acre of wild yard to maintain. Now, for this kid who grew up in East Los Angeles, which is mostly littered with cracked sidewalks, decrepit asphalt, and concrete as far as the eye can see, maintaining a bucolic landscape doesn't come naturally. 


And so in between professional landscapers, as we are right now, it requires that I get off my keyboard and get out there and tend to the rural forest that seems to overgrow each week with abandon.   

One of my wife’s little hobbies is waking up early on Saturday mornings to hit the estate sales. She tells me she does it to bring me home fresh donuts, but I know better. One recent morning, she returned with donuts but also a battery-powered weed whacker. Sure, I can take a hint.

Our yard has more weeds than you can shake a stick at. Which is mostly what I do when I see them sprout up all over the place. But this time I was ready for a battle between man and nature. And I don’t mean to brag, but I felt like Norman Schwarzkopf as one invasive weed after another got whacked and eliminated. 

I was feeling so confident after routing the enemy that I debated whether I would finish the job once and for all by taking the battle to my next-door neighbor’s yard. But then reality hit me like a pottery barn vase over the head. Not my mission.

After about twenty minutes of proverbial ass-kicking, my weed wacker stopped. The battery died. However, after recharging it for 30 minutes, I was back in the battle. Twenty minutes later, oops, I was out of juice again. Oh well, it was an opportunity to read posts on X while my battery recharged.   


And as so often happens, this experience got me thinking. And it also got me, well, X-ing:

I drew some important lessons from the, er, yardy situation. The first is that there’s no substitute for Capitalism. Huh? Stay with me.

Think about it. Human ingenuity, innovation, and technology in service to higher productivity are why a farmer who 150 years ago could only feed his own family and maybe one or two others can now, using the proper equipment, feed hundreds. 

In 1940 an American farmer fed roughly 18 people. In 2016 an American farmer fed 164 people. Combined, American farmers ship more than $100 billion of their crops and products to nations throughout the world.

The other lesson is that while batteries are really cool and I especially love how they work in my TV remote, when it comes to powering manly tools and heavy machines they just don’t get the job done. If you really need the energy to feed and move millions of people, you need energy from hydrocarbons. 


Speaking of energy, natural gas is my preferred energy source as it is 50 percent cleaner than coal, and America has nearly 100 years of it - even at our current level of consumption.

Don’t get me wrong. My battery-powered weed whacker is itself a miracle of human ingenuity -- for as long as it stays charged, that is. But I couldn’t ignore the real-world facts on the ground. It only got the job done for about 20 minutes at a time. After about the third pause to recharge, if you listened closely you could almost hear the weeds commiserating, but also regrouping.   

After hearing about my ordeal, the next weekend the Calvary showed up -- along with my son-in-law. 

Now I had access to modern weapons of war. He had a gas-powered weed wacker made by Sikorsky, a gas-powered precision blower probably by Raytheon, a gas-powered hedge trimmer probably by Litton Guidance and Control, and a gas-powered riding mower almost certainly made by General Dynamics. I’m talking about a little green and yellow battle tank with a seat, steering wheel, gas pedals, and all sorts of other little gadgets that I have no idea what they did. It may as well have been an M1 Abrams!  

What a game-changer. The weeds, the grass, the hedges, and even the debris surrendered right there on the spot. I’m talking white flags, empty canteens, you name it. Operation Rural Storm was a huge success. Mission accomplished! 


Thanks to American capitalism, technology, and human ingenuity, in partnership with America's independent frackers, my approval rating inside the house soared to 90 percent. Well, what can I say? There’s always more to do around the house…


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