The Yard Man was here giving us an estimate for clearing the backyard. He bills hourly, but he spoke not in hours but in days.

I need to take some pictures of the backyard so it is apparent how completely overgrown it is. I would compare it to Sheets’ Lot, but none of you know what Sheets’ Lot was, except my cousins from Indiana.

Sheets was a doctor – Doctor Sheets. He owned the empty lot next to the property owned by my grandmother: a couple of acres of rural pastoral in Rush County Indiana. Sheets’ Lot was the couple acres next door. Pastoral is a wasting asset if you aren’t willing, George W Bush-like, to devote a considerable part of your energy and mental space to that most intensive human pursuits, Clearing Brush. Doctor Sheets did not do this, and Sheets’ Lot became overgrown. Then impenetrable. Then scary. And finally, it became a potential tort.

Sheets’ Lot could hurt you. At least, that’s what, as kids, we were told. Avoid Sheets’ Lot. There are snakes and hornets. Rusty nails to step on. Whiplike branches encrusted with thorns, ready to put out whatever part of you came near.

Sheets’ Lot was a terror of my young childhood that enlivened my summer visits to Grandmother’s House. If we saw a bee, it came from Sheets’ Lot. If anyone fell itchy with poison ivy, they strayed too near Sheets’ Lot. Sheets’ Lot threw off curses the way your s’mores fire threw sparks. It was our Mordor.

We would gaze at its dark loomings, from the safety of the white-painted iron lawn furniture that surrounded the six-foot-deep, brick-lined, formerly illuminated, former fish pond that was now a great pool of algiferous drowning bait, the obvious child-killing danger among us, but which nobody thought about that way because it was on the lawful side of the border with Sheets’ Lot and it had always been there while we played around it.

Then I got too old for extended summer visits to Grandma’s House. I went off to college. I forgot all about Sheets’ Lot and the seam of contrast it represented, between the pastoral Us and the feral It.

The next time I was down at the house, my uncle, who had since inherited the house, had bought the lot from Sheets and cleared it with his back and his hands. It was now tidily returned to the pastoral: no hornets, snakes, nails, poison ivy, or thorns. The disused fish pond had been drained and bricked up. Neither ever claimed a victim.

Now I have my own Sheets’ Lot, and it’s not a metaphor but a huge pain in the ass that I’m paying a dude a bunch of money to cut down.