I have friends and cohorts from outside of Texas who have to ask me, every once in a while, “why do you stay in Texas?” I have to admit that the summer heat has something to do with it. I’m not just talking about how summer out here makes you appreciate autumn that much more, although autumn that lasts until New Year’s Eve has a lot going for it. There’s something about strenuous effort in our current flash-fire weather that brings on particularly Lovecraftian insights into the universe. Fixing a blown tire on my bike as the sun was coming up, I think Coyote, Loki, and Nyarlathotep tag-teamed me, because I came up with all sorts of disturbing long-term garden pranks.
Dallas is particularly good at producing sick pranksters: those of us in certain circles may remember the exploits of the late musician and filmmaker Joe Christ in the Eighties. One of Joe’s most disgusting and funny pranks was pulled during the 20th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1983. Joe, like many people, was disgusted at Dallas’s efforts to cash in on Kennedy’s death instead of celebrating his life, so he and friends proceeded to drive by a big ceremony at Dealey Plaza with a convertible just like Kennedy’s. With friends and cohorts dressed as Secret Service agents and John Connally, next to a big mannequin dressed up to look like Kennedy. As they passed, the top of the dummy’s head popped off, and spurted stage blood ten feet into the air in front of the horrified onlookers. The last time I talked with Joe, back in 1999, he was talking about updating this for the fiftieth anniversary, and knowing him, his friends have something really horrifying to pull off in his memory.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to go that far, although there’s nothing wrong with making your neighbor’s garden gnomes’ eyes glow red at night. Besides, the best stunts are the ones that go off months or years after you’ve left the scene of the crime, because then nobody has any idea of who was responsible.
And so I’m going to test a very long-term stunt. As with everyone else in Dallas, my front yard is riddled with big cracks. We’re talking cracks big enough for hiding spaces for kittens. The thick clay that comprises the first three meters or so of North Texas, what locals call “black gumbo”, is now almost completely dry, and its prodigious water-holding properties are now demonstrated by the fact that the water is gone. Even worse, there’s no realistic expectation of rainfall for the rest of the month, either.
So that made me wonder. Considering the length and the width of the cracks, the sane response would be to use this opportunity to spread compost across the lawn, so that compost helps break up the clay when the rains return. (Contrary to advice given by some gardening experts, do NOT add sand, unless you like concrete for a front yard.) Sure, I could do something responsible, such as taking advantage of Starbucks’s “Grounds For the Garden” program and packing those fissures full of used coffee grounds. Instead, I wondered “What would happen if you dumped a few kilos of water-retaining polymer crystals into a couple of those crevasses before the rains returned? What would happen THEN?”
Why, yes, my brain WAS well-cooked by the time this errant thought ripped through my mind, unpacked its bags, and demanded breakfast. Time to make a trip to the garden store: most likely, the crystals will simply add to the soil’s capacity to hang onto water during the next drought. HowEVER, if this experiment leads to geysers of clear goo in the center of otherwise pristine lawns, I’ll let you know. Then we’ll talk about using it to write graffiti in lawns.