Exit, pursued by a Rain Train

The bright, sunny days of summer have once again caused the lawns of Magnolia to erupt with garden sprinklers.

One of my neighbors doesn't feel quite right unless there's water falling on his yard in some way. If it's not raining, he's out sprinkling. Another seems to water by consulting charts of the moon's phases.

This year I took a good look at our old sprinkler and decided that it just wasn't up to another season. A quick pass through the garden supply section of the local discount store revealed to me that this once simple job would now best be handled with the latest in hi-tech implements.

The array of selections before me was truly mind-boggling. There were 27 different models of rain simulators spread out over two aisles, and they ranged in complexity from $10 twist-on hose nozzles and $15 soak-n-spray hoses punched full of holes to the Deluxe Rain Train for "only $95.95!"

The Rain Train, which looks like a little cast-iron tractor with cleated wheels, follows its own hose up grades and around curves along a preselected path until it ends up back against the house at the faucet. Of course, if you have forgotten to go out and shut the thing off before then and it gets that far, there's no way to turn it off without getting wet. Also, if it manages to jump off its preset hose track, you might just find your sprinkler two houses down the block doing its best to crawl along toward Ballard. This is indeed a lawn sprinkler to be reckoned with.

As I continued to stroll down the garden store path, I passed a multi-patterned sprayer that featured five different watering designs and the venerable hose-powered Rain Birds. What stopped me, though, was the Turbo-heart Oscillating Rain Fan display. Anything with a turbo in it, I figured, has to be high performance. ("Turbo" seems to be this year's hot catchword.) Besides, the sprinkler promised no puddling.

Our yard successfully spans the entire spectrum from Sahara to Everglade; one part of the front lawn collects sun-bleached bones, while last December's rains are still seeping into other parts of it.

Once we finally had the hose stretched out to our Oscillating Rain Fan and hooked up, then we began the exasperating job of finding just the right amount of water pressure to do the job.

Turn the hose all the way on and the sprinkler proceeds to water both the street and the neighbor's yards on either side.

At the same time, if the water isn't on hard enough, the sprinkler will stay in one place and won't oscillate.

With summer's low water pressure, a simple flush of the toilet is usually enough to stop the back-and-forth motion.

Watching the water squirt from the sprinkler brought back memories of hot, sticky days in the Midwest and the fun we used to have as youngsters dashing through the refreshing shower. We would play in the water until our mothers would come out of the house and chase us away for turning the yard into a mudhole. "You kids are going to ruin the lawn!"

Last week, as I watched the water spraying back and forth, I thought, "Why not?" I was only wearing shorts and a T-shirt, so I quickly doffed my sandals and walked out through the stream of invigorating water. The wet grass felt good between my toes.

"Just what do you think you're doing?" came the cry from my partner, the Lady Marjorie, from inside the house.

"Playin' in the sprinkler," I replied - but personally, I thought it looked rather self-explanatory.

"Well, get out of it, you'll start digging up the yard! [Where had I heard that before?] An' don't you dare drip all over the floor - you'd better come in through the garage.

"Good heavens, once a kid...."

Passers-by probably thought me a little foolish, but then, you might try being a little childish yourself on one of these hot days. I'll guarantee you that you'll get at least one grin out of it.

After all, when was the last time you walked through a sprinkler?

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