Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, a young teenager operated a lawn-mowing business with his younger brother. This was long before powered string-trimmers. I was that teenager, and I did a lot of hand-trimming [hand-powered clippers] and edging [muscle-powered half-mower], although the main mower was Briggs & Stratton powered. It was hard work, and when I got old enough to drive I left the lawn-mowing business behind and became a lifeguard.

Even though I was one of the better competitive swimmers in the region, I still had to be Red Cross Water Safety Certified and pass a rigorous test against a number of other candidates. Getting a lifeguard job in Denver back then wasn’t all that easy.

Fast-forward to the present.

Because I know what drudgery lawn-mowing is, when I became successful enough, and when my children were long out of college, my first personal luxury was hiring a lawn service, and it definitely wasn’t cheap, but I was tired of mowing the lawn.

For a time, that was fine, but then that lawn service just vanished, literally overnight. I found another lawn service, but over the past several years the quality of mowing and trimming has diminished. My neighbors, with other lawn services, have noted the same problem. Then last Friday, the lawn-mowing team arrived, spent twenty minutes, and vanished, leaving the lawn two-thirds unmowed and totally untrimmed. I haven’t yet had a response to my inquiries.

On a related note, several weeks ago, I ran across a syndicated news story about how quite a number of public swimming pools across the United States were closed or unable to open because of a shortage of lifeguards.

I definitely have to wonder.

4 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time”

  1. KTL says:


    I had to laugh (a little) about this story. My twin brother and I also mowed lawns and sourced ourselves for whatever other lawn services were needed at the time. Our clients were universally older folks who could not do the work themselves. The work was hard, hot, and din’t pay much….but, it paid more than doing nothing. Our implements were a gas powered push mower and a hand powered clipper for doing the grass edging. I just told my older brother the other day that we invented the look of jeans hanging off our skinny hind ends at that time. 🙂

    That said, I’ve always been surprised at just how little is done by able bodied adults in recent decades that were done by enterprising kids or the homeowners themselves. Those routine chores include lawn work, grocery shopping, newspaper delivery (I did this too!), and dog walking. Many of these services are now available for purchase to adults owning that service as a business – and for an extraordinary charge.

    I am not surprised that these services may be the first to go when better the labor market tightens up dramatically (and/or the immigrant labor pool in some areas of the country).

    What’s the answer? For me, it’s continuing to do as much of that work as I can physically do for as long as I can. The most recent home we’ve been living in was also purchased specifically with heavy tree cover and essentially no grass other than thin patches in the back – for which I am quite happy. For those other services? Supply and demand I guess. Our city could also not get enough life guards to employ. However, public swimming pools have been vanishing now for decades (at least here in the midwest) in favor of private ones and outsourcing the indoor High School pool when necessary.

    Oh one last thing, the reliability of paper delivery by adults driving cars is very poor at best. In my day, I never, ever missed any deliveries or I’d have gotten an earful from my customers.

    Times change.

  2. Bill says:

    There are many reasons for this. I only mowed a few lawns for other people as kid but I mowed my parents for many years. I would have been tempted to be a lifeguard, but I got an inside job instead. My parents also moved when I was in eighth grade which messed up my being in the feeder systems for jobs.
    But if a 12-year-old can’t stay home for an afternoon by themselves without social services being called let alone being trusted to walk to the grocery store and back to buy groceries, they aren’t going to be allowed to start mowing lawns. Every child back then was free range.
    On top of that how many people will hire someone to do their lawn that doesn’t have insurance, etc.? It isn’t just that kids don’t want to do that kind of work, but it has gotten very complicated especially for a kid. How many stories do we hear each year of a lemonade stand being shut down by a call to the police?
    I am not sure that it isn’t that the kids don’t want to work but as there is no need especially with the middle class slowly disappearing. Most of the kids would rather sit inside playing computer games or texting with their friends. They have most of what they need/want and don’t need to work to get it.
    The kids from poorer areas/families are often enterprising enough but they don’t have the resources to start a lawn service or to be lifeguards. But they are out trying to sell bottled water to anyone they can find.

  3. Sandie says:

    We live(d) out in farm country. My kids were lucky enough to be able to get jobs doing hay, cleaning barns/chicken houses painting… whatever neighbours (and ourselves) needed doing. Now, farmers are not able to hire kids because of workman comp rules and other safety issues. I know some jobs are not suitable for kids, but it is really too bad they are unable to benefit from working hard for others.

  4. Grey says:

    Perhaps we don’t have to look far for the answers here?

    Unemployment is at record lows, in Utah especially, where employment is at a record low 2.2%.[1] (In the US overall it’s about 4%, which is again incredibly low.) Like others here, I mowed lawns for money back in the day and am glad to have found something else to do for a living. It has to be hard to find good help now adays (especially in Utah).

    With lifeguards, pools were shut for the pandemic, hammering the hammered the pipeline for training lifeguards and swim instructors.

    As for the ‘no one wants to work anymore’ theme here, I present for your enjoyment a 130 year history of ‘no one wants to work anymore’ headlines.[2] I don’t see any actual statistics suggesting Gen Z (or whoever) is sitting on the sidelines refusing to work.

    [1] https://www.utahbusiness.com/low-unemployment-rates-in-utah-are-causing-a-headache-for-employers/#:~:text=The%20state%20recently%20reported%20its%20lowest%20unemployment%20rate,percent%20according%20to%20the%20Bureau%20of%20Labor%20Statistics%29.
    [2] https://twitter.com/paulisci/status/1549527748950892544

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