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The great lawn coverup

Mindy Jones let her parents' lawn die. Her solution? Green turf paint.

By LAURA HEINAUER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 15, 2000


LEALMAN -- When Mindy Jones picks up her parents at the airport tonight, she'll have some explaining to do.

Something bad happened to their lawn while they were vacationing in Australia for a month. The drought conditions, along with Mrs. Jones' broken promise that she would keep it watered, well, the previously lush lawn became a faded patchwork of green, beige and brown.

With time running out Wednesday, she hired a painter -- for the lawn.

"It's kind of a weird Father's Day present," she said. "He's very picky, and if he came home now, he'd be in tears."

Mrs. Jones swears that she went to her parents' house on Sundays to water the lawn, her father's "pride and joy." But when she turned on the sprinklers, the water pressure was too low.

So about midnight, on the ride home in the Chevy minivan, she will tell her jet-lagged parents, Frank, 76, and Kay Fawcett, 71, that she killed their lawn. (And if she can muster up the courage, she'll tell them the flowers by the new pond and the fish died, too. They've been replaced.)

Mrs. Jones' daughters, Alea, 17, and Nikita, 9, will be at the house, 5199 49th Ave. N. They wouldn't miss it. "Grandpa will be like, "Oh, God! Mindy!' " Alea said, affecting her grandfather's British accent.

Donald Bryant, a beautician of sorts for Florida Lawn and Ornamental, gave the lawn a makeover in one hour.

With the drought, Bryant said he has received about one inquiry a day about turf paint, which is often used on athletic fields (a football end zone, for instance).

Unlike spray paint, turf paint is a non-toxic mist. It does not halt new growth, and it lasts for six weeks, Bryant said. Turf paint is not sold in stores, and charges for the service vary on the size of the lawn, he said. Mrs. Jones was charged $62.

"It started as a joke when I used it on my own lawn to appease my wife," Bryant said, "but we have found a use for it."

Mrs. Jones, 38, the youngest of the Fawcetts' five children, has a track record for this sort of trouble.

She has been known to glue together pieces of her mother's ceramic figurine and porcelain doll collections or hide the evidence so no one would find out.

"She's the master," Nikita said. "She does a lot of crazy stuff."

A week ago, Mrs. Jones saw a television news report on turf paint.

She had been hoping for rain, her stress level growing with each dry day. Knowing her father's devotion to his lawn (she said he gets up at 6 a.m. every day to work on it), she had to do something.

Carol Brown, Mrs. Jones' oldest sister, wasn't told of Mindy's plan until after the paint job. The two got in a fight over the weekend over Mindy's failure to water the lawn, Mrs. Brown said.

"I wanted to kill her," she said. "I wish they weren't coming at midnight. I would love to see their reaction."

From a distance, the emerald-colored clumps of dirt and thatch could pass for a blanket of St. Augustine.

"It looks fabulous," Mrs. Jones said as Bryant finished up. "I may get in trouble for the dead grass but not for the color of it."

Now, about the flowers and the fish ...

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