A 68-YEAR-OLD man in Lawrence, Kans., was jailed recently after he refused to pay a fine and court costs for waving a pellet gun in the direction of two men mowing his lawn. The City of Lawrence has an ordinance that requires the mowing of grass once it gets more than 12 inches high.

Since the man refused to do it, the city sent out a crew to mow it, and then billed him for the labor. When the men came back to mow it again, the homeowner tried to chase them away with the pellet gun.

This story upset me very much, and I believe the reason it did is that I identify so closely with the man who didn't want to cut his lawn. There are some ordinances that are good for the entire community, and there are others, such as this one, that seem to infringe on a person's freedom. What right does any city have to tell a person how high his grass should grow or to send people on his property to mow it?

I'll be very honest. I happen to like high grass. To me there is nothing more beautiful than to sit on the porch steps and watch thousands of tall blades of grass waving in the warm summer breeze. It can't grow too high as far as I'm concerned.

My wife, on the other hand, likes short grass. She believes everybody's lawn should look as smooth as a putting green on the Augusta National Golf Course. She also is afraid of her neighbors.

It seems almost every week she'll say something like, "I believe it's time someone cut the lawn."

"How do you know?"

"Because Seigel is cutting his," she says.

"Seigel is always mowing his lawn. I think he has a grass fetish."

"Sullivan is cutting his also."

"The only reason Sullivan is cutting his lawn is because Seigel started mowing his. I talked to Sullivan the other day, and he said he wished Seigel would take a rest for a few weeks and paint his kitchen instead."

"If we don't cut our lawn, everyone in the neighborhood will start talking about us."

"What can they possibly say?"

"They'll say we're troublemakers because we let our grass grow too tall."

"I don't see what the height of a person's lawn has to do with whether he is a good neighbor or not. People shouldn't be judged by the length of their grass."

"I hear Guggenheim's lawnmower going now."

"Sure, and do you know why? Because his wife saw Seigel and Sullivan cutting their lawns. I know for a fact that Guggenheim would rather play tennis today than mow his grass."

"How do you know that?"

"Because he had a game with Symington."

My wife looked out the window. "Then how come Symington is taking his lawn mower out of the garage?"

"Because Guggenheim canceled his game! Don't you see what's happening to all of us? We're becoming a nation of lawn mowers. We've lost the pioneer spirit that made this country great. Do you think Thomas Edison would have had time to invent the electric light bulb if his wife had kept going down to the cellar and telling him it was time to mow the lawn? We wouldn't have the telephone if Alexander Graham Bell had worried about his grass. Henry Ford couldn't have given a tinker's damn about his front yard."

"Do you want me to cut it, or are you going to do it?"

"You can't be serious. Who ever heard of a woman cutting grass? Physically, they're not built for it, and emotionally they can't take the pressure."

"Don't try to trick me with that women's liberation stuff. If you don't have any pride about our house, I do. But if I mow the lawn, you do the laundry."

"I'll cut it later when the weather cools off. I have an errand to do first."

"What are you going to do?"

"I think I'll go out and buy a pellet gun."

"What on earth for?"

"Just in case Seigel tries to cut my lawn."