As long as there have been lawns, there have been laws about lawns. Hence, those signs that say “Keep off the grass.”
But at the spectacular 165-acre Crane Estate on Castle Hill in Ipswich, the Trustees (who own and operate the stunning property) actually want you on the grass.
The Grand Allée, especially — a vast, breathtaking expanse of green the full width of the Great House mansion, rolling dramatically all the way down to the beach — is perfect for a stroll, a picnic, perhaps a solitary, meditative interlude.
Or a joyride. If you’re an idiot.
A few days ago, staff and visitors at the Great House were astonished to look down toward the water and see a small white SUV heading down the Grand Allée.
A Trustees ranger at the Great House began hoofing it downhill to intercept the wayward vehicle. En route, she used her walkie-talkie to alert the beach ranger. The hill ranger finally caught up to the wrongdoers at Steep Hill, where the beach ranger had corralled them — two senior citizens: a woman, who apparently had been driving said vehicle; and a man, evidently the companion of said driver. The hill ranger proceeded to escort the miscreant couple off the property.
It was no shame-faced perp walk. The woman was jovial. Her excuse for her misbehavior was that she was “old.” (Her companion, perhaps mortified, said almost nothing.) The woman expressed no remorse for her crime, and hardly any for getting caught. She never even fessed up. On the contrary.
The ranger asked the woman about her familiarity with the property. Yes, indeed, she was quite familiar with the area. She proudly reported that she “taught swimming at Crane’s Beach” decades ago.
So, then, you know better than to drive on the Allée, huh? the ranger prompted.
Oh, I didn’t drive on the Allée! the woman fibbed.
I watched you drive down the Allée, the ranger replied.
You couldn’t see me! the woman insisted. How could you see me?
Everyone at the Great House could see you! the ranger advised.
Well, the woman answered, it didn’t happen if you don’t tell anyone. You won’t tell, will you?
The ranger, appalled by the scoundrel’s coy venality, remained benevolently silent — and saw the offenders off the property.
So when you attend the next Castle Hill Concert and cross the Grand Allée looking for a place to spread your picnic blanket but on the way your third-grader trips and plunges into the wide, ugly trench of a tire track, you’ll have that loathsome woman to thank — a person who arrived at a certain age and decided that the rules no longer apply to her, and she’s now somehow free to damage private property for her own misguided pleasure.
I do hope the Trustees won’t overreact to this one rogue visitor’s selfish lunacy and feel obligated to make a tragic “Keep Off the Grass” rule. However, since there are rude, self-absorbed, unprincipled people in our world, the Trustees may have no choice but to add a few signs specifying restraints that the average respectful citizen simply assumes. Besides the obvious “Don’t Drive Your Vehicle on the Grass,” I would perhaps suggest:
“Don’t Pull Up the Garden Flowers. They’re to Look At.”
“Don’t Toss Your Garbage Into the Bushes. Take It Home for Disposal.”
“Don’t Sneak Your Dog Onto the Property. Dogs Aren’t Allowed Here.”
“Don’t Wade in the Fountains. The Piranhas Are Hungry.”
“Don’t Bust the Head Off a Statue. It’s Art.”
“Don’t Spray-Paint Anything. You’ll Make It Ugly.”
“Don’t Relieve Yourself in the Bushes. It’s Gross.”
“Don’t Try to Pull One Over on the Ranger. She’s Married to the Outsidah.”
Doug Brendel lives obediently with a Castle Hill ranger on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Follow him at DougBrendel.com.