Frank Maguire
The curious case of the "author unknown"
By Frank Maguire
October 4, 2010

"Loveliness/Needs not the foreign aid of ornament,/But is when unadorned adorned the most." James Thomson, "Autumn," The Seasons (1726-30)

Last week, as Helen and I were editing the Northwest Connection, Helen took a short respite to check on her e-mail. Suddenly, I heard her emit sounds I've come to know well, after 52 years of marriage, as her "Surprise!" sounds. Designed to immediately attract my attention — it did.

"Frank," Helen beckoned, "look at this." I looked at her screen and read a bit. "That's familiar," I said. "Where'd it come from?"

"I just received it from (cousin) Carmen," she answered. "Looks like its making the internet rounds." A cursory glance showed that it had done some travelling. I also noticed that the piece was unattributed.

"Helen," I asked, "when did I write this? Where was it first published?" She remembers such history much better than I. She apprised, "You wrote this in the "Village Fare."

The Village Fare was a newsletter that I wrote for the Phase One Homeowners' Association in Fairview Village. Fairview (Oregon) was, then, a sparsely populated city on the Columbia River, near the "mouth" of Columbia Gorge, about 12 miles from Portland.

Village Fare was fun to write, which we did for about four years. It was eclectic, and did not always please the historically insulated city council and city administration.

VF also gained some notoriety and was referred to by both the local Gresham Outlook and the Oregonian. In fact, one year I was selected by the Outlook as one of East County's most interesting characters. ("Interesting" is not the word used to describe me by the local pol's and developers.)

My facetious little piece, which was designed to lampoon the hyper-fixation for gardening of the inhabitants, and also to poke some fun at the overzealous types who establish themselves as the Homeowners Association Grand Inquisitors, obsessed with Keeping a Gimlet-Eye on Thy Neighbor's Property That Falls Short of Our Aesthetic Preferences.

Ah, yes, there were some strong differences of aesthetic-opinion, and I, as the publicizer of such, was declared anathema — a pariah to be cast out.

I caution the reader, that my "thumb" was more ink-stained than Green. My expertise on things horticultural is sublimely uninformed, though I did receive an "A" in the one college Botany class I had taken at a California college.

So, readers, this piece is dilettantic, and only "political" by inference. But, since it still seems to hold some appeal, I chose to offer it to the readers of

Perhaps, my dear friend Curtis "Treeman" Dahlgren will see all the weaknesses. I know that he, being a generous fellow of keen wit, will not be too hard on me. He will understand the light-hearted intent, but also he will note the implications of la politique du vert.

God and Lawn Care


Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.


It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.


Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs, Crane flies and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?


Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.


The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.


Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.


They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?


Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.


They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?


No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.


Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?


Yes, Sir.


These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.


You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.


What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.


You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.


No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?


After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.


And where do they get this mulch?


They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.


Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?


'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story about....


Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

© Frank Maguire


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Click to enlarge

Frank Maguire

(Frank Maguire passed away on May 19, 2021. His obituary can be read here.

Frank Maguire was born in Dorchester, MA, 1938, attended schools in Massachusetts, California, and Arizona, where he completed degrees in music and English writing/Journalism. Frank has been married to Helen Isabel Maguire Estevez of Culver City, California, since 1957. They have six children, 14 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren.


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