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Bigfoot

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The fall colors were stunning last week: Oranges and reds played off of the blue sky, gusting clouds and swaying pines, their rustling and fluttering suggesting a natural symphony. Cue the maples, now the oaks.

It's a shame to have to disturb this autumn ritual. But, fair warning, I'm cranking up my leaf blower these days, and it's going to break the rural sound barrier. See, we live in the middle of the woods, where paths and trails crisscross in the surrounding hills. The so-called lawn I attempted to keep green so the kids, now grown, would have a place to kick a soccer ball, throw a Frisbee or have picnics now lies under three inches (and rising) of leafy mulch. The driveway looks like a photograph taken after a New England nor'easter.

So I roam my private kingdom, pushing my trusty 80 horsepower Jet Sweep Blower. Bright red with oversize back tires, it reminds me of those real-man truck commercials. The rolling monster generates winds that move at 150 mph through a four-inch tunnel, says the manual. Squirrels and pinecones, twigs and small rodents, clear a path: Here comes the Abdominal Snowman of carbon footprints.

It's a simple machine, just two control levers and a pull cord. You set the choke, pop the throttle and, with one quick yank, dirt and leaves and anything in the pipe's path goes flying. For someone like me, who just wants an excuse for another outdoor project, it's ridiculously addictive. Plus, after 45 minutes of blasting underbrush, a day's cardio exercise is done.

Since the blower's tempest plays no favorites, navigating the driveway is most satisfying. It lifts loose moss by the side of the road just as it creates whitecap waves in leftover puddles. Pine needles surf to the edge, and twisted Tulip Poplar leaves become airborne flotsam. This is an inspired cyclone.

True, my Jet Sweep Blower is loud and not really designed for fine-motor controls. It does straight lines much better than tight curves. It's not tidy, either. Rather, it creates clouds of dust and debris in its side wake. Make a sharp turn, and you'll wish you'd warn protective glasses. If you want finesse and complete control, clean edges and tucked-in bed corners, use my wife's little electric blower with the 150-foot extension cord. To do battle with the elements, to harness a mini-tornado, it's time for the hyperbole I push.

I haven't gone to the dark side completely: We still recycle, wash with cold water and buy high-efficiency appliances when we can afford them. I barter eggs for bread, and I get those e-mails from David Plouffe. We use a clothesline. So there's still some green cred in the house. But these next few Saturdays, I'm marching to a different drummer, taking my blower off message. After all those years of raking and bagging, I want to witness its power.

Hey, at least I buy my gas locally.

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