It was a balmy December 22 – the final leaves that had been clutching to their branches had been ripped off by high winds at last, and the bodies now blanketed the lawns, getting tracked in everywhere as they simultaneously smothered the hibernating grass. These were almost-perfect conditions for the neighborhood’s annual LEAF WARS.
As the contestants emerged from their home bases, they already were armed in their hats, coats, jeans, and special sneakers. The coats were doffed later on as it became too unseasonably hot, but no one wanted be seen as the first weakling to do so.
The gloves were selected and put on carefully by the amateurs – the serious players went sans. The same applied for sunglasses and lip balm, all of which were potential impediments.
Next was the selection of weaponry, wherein the true contest lay. The unspoken debate raged over which was superior in efficiency, the rake or the blower. Some argued that each item actually complimented the other – those some never won. These were the same people who were satisfied with their scoopers, mini-rakes, dustpans, and a job well done.
A hush fell over the street as each person sized up the enemies who lived closest to them. Already, points were being added and deducted for leaves winding up lawns not featuring the originating tree; the number of trees on the property divided by the wind’s velocity times the amount of fencing; and how many children (their own and borrowed) enlisted to assist. Those who used lawn service were disqualified.
At the sound of a paper bag snapping open, they were off. Blowers roared to life and rakes scraped the very skin off the ground. The winner would be determined not by the number of bags filled (which could be fudged by not packing each to its utmost potential), but by whichever first had its lawn picked clean and the participants inside drinking hot cocoa or cider, after factoring in the aforementioned handicaps.
Some devious blowers could offload a bit of their quantity by forcing leaves onto a neighbor’s property under the guise of a passing wind: this was extremely risky and rarely worked, as the referees were the neighborhood porch sitters and they see everything.
The competition heats up when more bags are needed and a time-out is called while trips to the local home improvement store are made. The remaining contestants spend this lost time glaring at each other and calculating whether there are any possible benefits to pile diving.
Usually, the contest boils down to two sets of players of any combination (rake-rake, rake-blower, blower-blower). As the calluses get the better of them, they frantically cut corners in removing each leaf and instead aim for 95% lawn greenage. The winner signifies triumph by stapling the last bag shut, throwing the tool of choice into the air, and dashing inside to soak their hands in ice. The second-place teams stops wherever it is and leaves (pun intended) the rest to Nature, since there is no point in continuing.
The denuded trees continue to brew their next batch of colorful garbage, and the town prepares to implement curbside leaf vacuuming the following year.