Christine Langhorst knows where all the gopher holes sit on the property behind her town home near Lions Park, because she walks past them — and sometimes steps into them — during the three-day feat to push-mow the area.
She takes on the terrain along Vierling Drive like it’s an allowance deal she made with her parents so she has extra money for ice cream. Except she’s not getting paid and she’s 77 years old.
She’s got the routine down to a science. If it’s nice outside — not too hot or too windy, with no signs of rain, she dons a sweat band and visor, puts gasoline and a bucket of ice water into a wheelbarrow and walks across the street to the property. She’ll mow for a few hours — just enough to finish about a third of the lawn — and then she’ll come out the next day or week and do it again. It takes her about 10 hours to finish mowing the area. And by the time she’s finished with one strip, the next piece will be due for a manicure.
Langhorst believed the land was city-owned, but Shakopee Public Works Director Steve Lillehaug said the property is owned by the state, specifically the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Despite the owner, Langhorst will continue to maintain it like her own.
She just recently bought a self-propelled push mower, but she said she’d never resort to a rider. That would be cheating.
Langhorst moved to Shakopee in 2000, and started mowing the area behind her house shortly after moving. Since she lives in a town home, she said, she “doesn’t get to mow her own yard.” Langhorst’s husband, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and dementia, lives in a care facility down the road.
“He’s starting to get a little grumpy, because he’s not remembering things,” she said, motioning to the expanse of grass. “So this is kind of my outlet.”
Langhorst said she doesn’t know how many acres the property is. But it’s at least two blocks long, and she cuts the entire strip, save the steep hill near the pond, where she avoids.
“I have to be careful around there,” she said, motioning to the wet grass on the hill.
Langhorst said the property was only being cut twice a year when she first moved, and because she liked taking her dogs there, she decided to cut it herself.
Langhorst said mowing the property is a built-in workout that has kept her 77-year-old figure in shape and her skin sun-kissed. When people drive by, they recognize Langhorst and honk or wave. And she said she knows more names of dogs trotting by on walks with their owners than she does people. When her furry friends pass by, she always stops her mower to say hello.
“If (someone) came around and told me they were going to take this over, I’d say ‘no, thank you,’” Langhorst said, laughing. “Not until I’m unable to cut it myself.” When she’s finished, Langhorst always turns to admire the straight lines and the smell of her freshly-cut grass.
“It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something,” she said.
Lillehaug said he was unaware of Langhorst’s volunteer work, but was surprised when he heard it took her 10 hours to mow the area behind her house.
“Yeah, that will keep her in shape,” he said, laughing. “Volunteer work is awesome.”