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May 24, 2006
a-z tv sub i

The grass here is really tall. It's a big yard, too, with an even bigger area beyond the old brick garage and chicken coop which forms its distant wall. There's no lawnmower (that's how it got so tall), and even if there were there's nothing a lawnmower could do against a waist-high "lawn." What there is is a dull 2-foot scythe blade with a broken handle, so Mirek teaches us a new Czech term to practice when we walk to Kutna Hora to get cash and find a hardware store: nasada na kosu--handle for scythe. It turns out scythes are still quite common here and we find a 6-foot pole with two precisely placed handgrips for 199 crowns (a little under $10). Being in Kutna Hora, a visit to the bone church is obligatory. Walking in with the scythe handle, a man who works there turns laughing to his colleague saying words to the effect that they're being visited by the Grim Reaper. It's funny that in such a serious place this man had the warmest smile and kindest laugh of any Czech we've so far met. I enjoy standing among the artfully arranged bones leaning on the handle as the tour groups ignore me. Walking back to Jakub on a dirt road between farm fields, an oldtimer on a bicycle sees the scythe handle and says (in Czech) it looks like someone's going to do some cutting and then asks how much I paid for it. I tell him and he shakes his head as if to imply any fool could fashion one out of a fallen tree limb. Back at the house, I attach the blade to the new handle and Mirek shows me how to sharpen it with a whetstone that you keep wet by dipping in its aluminum sheath. Doing it right entails the skilled use of a hammer to keep the edge straight and true, but half-assed is good enough for me and then I set to swinging through, more tearing than cutting the grass for what Mirek calls a punk rock haircut for the lawn. Well, it was a start at least and we celebrated the sunshine and partly tamed yard with a small fire and two take-out pitchers of beer from the pub across the street.