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"She Fought The Lawn But The Lawn Won"

Earlier in the week I came across the story of Betty Perry, 70 years old, who was arrested after she scuffled with a police officer who went to her home because she had let her lawn go brown. During the struggle Perry fell and injured her nose and according to her attorney, Gloria Allred, she was handcuffed with "bruises and blood." Betty Perry is being charged with resisting arrest and failing to maintain her landscape, both misdemeanors.

Pause here and reflect on the fact that we live in a society where resisting arrest and not watering your lawn are considered equal. The city attorney of Orem, Utah, having eradicated all forms of crime, is still pressing charges because there's nothing better to do or he/she really loves lawns. Don't get me wrong I know that resisting arrest is not something that should be taken lightly or ignored but the arrest stemmed from her having a brown lawn. Various media outlets report at the end of the story that Betty Perry had the water shut off at her home for nine months while she continued to live there.

It doesn't take a bleeding-heart liberal or a tree hugger to empathize with the woman in this case. A 70 year old woman maybe somebodies mother, grandmother-could be yours-made the choice to live in a home without running water for nine months. I'm more concerned with the reason why Betty Perry made the choice to live in her home without water than seeing her tried and convicted for failing to maintain her landscaping. I can't imagine someone living without water for that long without very good reason. City officials should be ashamed of themselves and I hope the media's spotlight on the case causes them to reverse their decision to press charges over the lawn.

The plight of Betty Perry reminds me of an incident involving the police and my family last summer. I woke up from a nap to the sound of people running up the stairs to the second floor of the house and my sister exclaiming, "They're only cactuses!" Curious and confused I got up and ran downstairs where I found my sister, mother and foster brother sitting on a couch surrounded by three police officers, two males one female, who had their hands on their holsters.

After some discussion I learned that my sister had let the police into the house when they knocked on the door and said that they had heard we had a marijuana farm in the house. Where they got this idea from is beyond me considering that the windows that house my cacti and houseplants aren't visible from the street or houses nearby because my neighbor's roof line blocks the view to these windows and plants. I also don't use Sodium Vapor lights or any kinds of grow lights, for that matter, that could give the impression of plants being grown indoors.

Once the police officers left the house I informed my sister of two things; her rights against unreasonable searches and seizures and that the plural form of cactus is cacti not "cactuses." Considering what happened to Betty Perry I can forgive her for allowing the police to come into the house without a search warrant but I've told her many times before that the proper word is cacti.

On the web:

Betty Perry pleads "not guilty" to charges of resisting arrest and having a brown lawn.


  1. If Betty Perry "chose" to live without water, it may be she was choosing to eat instead. The plight of many of the elderly in this country should make the powers that be ashamed of themselves, but I very much doubt they give them a second thought, except at election time.

    My depression era mother's SS check was $85 dollars a month, on her own how could she survive ?

  2. ohiomom,

    That is what I was thinking. I was thinking that if she was otherwise of sound mind that her reason had to be financial. I've never been to Utah but I don't have the impression that it is a lush paradise. I Googled and the annual rain fall in Orem is 16 inches-that's a lot of supplemental watering.

  3. Wow, I wonder if the neighbours had complained. Sometimes it seems as if people value their lawns more than people. This reminds me of my neighbour who grows a particular type of grass for her paintings. Someone complained and the city came and cut it down and then charged her $$ and gave her a ticket. She was not happy ... mostly because the grass hadn't reached the stage where she could paint it.

    (There was a similar story about someone being fined for their grass in Arizona. I forget the details but it was essentially the same thing ... the guy didn't resist arrest, but he did get rid of his grass.

  4. Kate,

    I know what you mean. There's a somewhat similar story closer to your neck of the woods. A woman had a garden filled with native plants and the city came by and cut it down because neighbors complained about all the "weeds."

  5. It is sad that growing a natural garden is considered to be a weed-infested, while having regular spraying of pesticide on lawns is ignored. (I have a policewoman living beside me now who is a fan of the perfectly-manicured lawn. My long-grass neighbour thinks we should make a lovely sign declaring my garden pesticide-free. But people want their lush-looking lawns and they also don't want to have to spend much time on them. VoilĂ  - pesticides, fertilisers and lots of water sprinklers.

    Just one of my pet peeves ... it doesn't take much to encourage me!! Thanks for the reference to the Toronto article.

  6. this is such a sad sad story. this actually happened to a friend of mine, sans police brutality. my friend's neighbors complained about the condition of his un-watered lawn and the city actually fined him for it.

    what really gets me is the state of our city- we live in a borderline desert area and water is scarce. my friend was forced to replant his lawn in addition to paying the fine and wasting tons of expensive water so that his neighbors could feel the security of a green lawn.

    i wonder if you have seen the new fake grass? the public utilities building of my city had installed this super realistic astro turf. it feels nice and soft and you don't have to water it.

    great post.


  7. If I think of the crime here in South Africa then that is ridiculous. I do not want to think of crime, nothing as cruel as raping babies to cure AIDS and muti murders. So few get caught. Send us some of those police to South Africa, we need them for real crime.
    I enjoy your writing style.

  8. I hope that you'll consider a post to inform the rest of us about our rights regarding unreasonable search and seizure. . . .

    (Says the guy who's just bought two vaguely marijuana-looking plants -- Hibiscus acetosella, Dizygotheca elegantissima -- and has lights all over the apartment. No actual marijuana, though, just to be painfully explicit.)

  9. Glad I don't live in your Gestapo town. Sheesh, how could they mistake a cactus for a 'juana plant.

    What insanity! They should give Betty Perry a medal instead for conserving water especially in the dry and arid west.

  10. It may be that her irrigation (for the lawn) water was turned off and not her house water. In Utah we have two water systems. Don't know for sure. Would like to think her family or community would help her out, but it is insane that she was arrested.

  11. This is beyond words for me!!!
    It is insane that we as a society puts green grass above a human. And her neighobrs should be ashamed!!! Why didn't they know about her water being shut off. Now days we spend too much time in front of the compter or TV when we should be making sure we know our neighbors and help them out if they need it.

  12. I think "Lawn people" by Paul Robbins may be something to read to get answers. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but the reviews have already changed my view upon having turf in the garden.

  13. I am giggling about your lecturing your sister on the Cacti/Cactus conundrum. :) The Betty Perry thing is not so funny... good lord.

  14. Thank you all for stopping by and commenting.

    muum, thanks for that information.

  15. First of all, thanks for stopping by my blog. Keep coming back! I came across your story about this elderly lady and am shocked. I used to live in the US for a long time and never understood the obsession about spending $$$$ on watering a lawn every summer obsessively. Lawmakers who agree to create laws like that are in the wrong business and don't have their focus on what is a real crime. Greetings from Germany, Andrea

  16. Andrea it is always a pleasure visiting your blog. Your avatar always catches my attention when I see it on other blogs.

    Will see you soon.

  17. That's horrific treatment of the elderly. For anyone to be treated violently is bad, but much worse when:
    a) The police are the violent ones
    b) The victim is defenceless, and
    c) The initiator of the altercation is water conservation!
    Where I come from, you get in much more trouble for watering you're lawn than not watering it (during certain times and on certain days - water restrictions during the drought, I live in Australia).

    BTW, I love the blog.



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