Carl Copeland and His Grandsons' Lawn Service


Howard Emerton


All over the town of Livingston beginning around the middle of March and up through November of each year a white truck appears pulling a nice enclosed trailer. Lettering on the trailer reads "You grow it, we’ll mow it." But the person responsible for the beginning of this particular lawn service didn’t live to see just how far his grandsons have come since he started them mowing yards as very young boys. Carl Copeland, who owned an insurance business in Livingston for many years, is that grandfather, someone his grandsons called "Pa." Barry, Tim and Jeff Emerton, sons of Howard and Sue Emerton, grandsons of Carl and Daisy Copeland, got started mowing yards for people when Jeff was only 10 years old. Mrs. Elma Lee Bussell was the very first person they mowed for, and they continued to mow her yard for more than twenty years. The business was started with one push mower the boys took turns using. Pa, who Jeff referred to as their financial advisor, bought an additional mower after their second or third summer. The boys made monthly payments to their Pa until they got the mower paid for. The lawn mowers were loaded in the back of Pa’s car and hauled around, and often, after getting to someone’s yard that was to be mowed, he would sit in the car and observe his grandsons at work.

While Carl Copeland was evidently a strong believer in teaching his grandsons to work at a young age, he also included them in other things he loved to do. Carl was someone who loved to hunt and fish, and the boys accompanied him on coon hunting trips, rabbit hunts, and on lots of fishing expeditions. It wasn’t anything unusual for him to load up the boys in the summer time and head out to Keisling Bottom, a place on Dale Hollow lake in Pickett County where camping was once allowed. There they pitched a tent, and would stay a week at a time. Mayford Boles often accompanied them on these week long trips, and it was Mayford who taught Jeff to fly fish. Mayford was also a very good cook, and would invite Carl and his grandsons over for a meal at his home from time to time. Jeff remembers one of his specialties was barbequed rabbit. Mayford had a boat he took the boys out to fish in, but Carl didn’t go out in the boat with them. He preferred to fish from the bank. All three of the Emerton young men still enjoy fishing, and even today, go as often as they can find the time with their very busy schedules.

Carl Copeland


One of Carl’s favorite foods was fried chicken, and most every Friday during the summer months, the Dixie Café in Byrdstown was a place he took the boys especially for the fried chicken they served there. One particular Friday trip to the Dixie Café stands out in Jeff’s mind. On the way home, Carl decided he would drive over to Taylors Crossroads. Many years ago, a ferry crossed Dale Hollow lake at Midway, and going across the lake there saved many miles of travel to reach Taylors Crossroads. On this particular trip across the lake, the engine for the ferry died about half way through their journey. The fellow in charge of running the ferry worked for some time before he got the engine up and going again, and by that time, the ferry had drifted quite a ways down the lake. Jeff remembers being quite scared until the ferry motor started up again.

Carl taught his grandsons to swim in the cold waters of the West Fork river. Jeff described his method of teaching them as "he threw us all in, and it was either sink or swim."

As the summers went by, the lawn mowing business grew just about as fast as the grass does. Before long, the boys were the owners of two push mowers, a riding mower, and a trailer to haul the riding mower on. Carl continued in his position as financial advisor as well as their transportation director. The trailer that hauled all three mowers around was pulled behind an old gold station wagon he had. Some others who were regular customers in the early days of their business, in addition to Mrs. Bussell, were Lewis and Kate Bilbrey, Charles Lewis and Clara Bilbrey, the Mofields, Mike Swallows, and John Officer. Mowing the cemetery at Bethlehem church and at Good Hope have also been included in places they have taken care of.

Carl’s love of fried chicken was still going strong when Kentucky Fried Chicken came to Cookeville. After that business opened, usually once a week, he loaded the family in his car and made a trip to Cookeville to enjoy a meal with the Colonel. After everyone had eaten, there was one thing he asked the boys to do, and it was because he never left without having them do this that Barry finally stopped going on this family outing. Each of the boys was given a bag and was sent around to the tables of the other customers where they were instructed to ask if they could have the chicken bones to take home to their Pa’s dogs. Because of Carl’s love for hunting as well as dog trading, he had sometimes as many as twenty dogs at home to feed, so he took this opportunity to help with the expense in having that many dogs to feed by gathering up the chicken bones at Colonel Sanders. But Barry was willing to stay behind rather than be embarrassed when he knew it was time to collect chicken bones from the other customers so Pa’s dogs could get a special treat.

The years went by, the Emerton boys grew up, found jobs, got married, and established homes and families of their own. But the lawn mowing business wasn’t ever given up or forgotten about. Even with each having full time jobs, the summer months always included mowing lawns too. For a time, Jeff was in the lawn service business by himself. Barry went to work at Jerry’s IGA, and at the age of 18, Tim joined the police department in Livingston. Barry later moved to Knoxville, and for a while, Jeff and Tim maintained separate lawn mowing businesses. In the late 1980's, Jeff says the two brotherly corporations merged. Their father, Howard Emerton, began working with them around this time, creating once again another company merger. Howard’s job description was customer service representative. Part of his duties included collecting the money for services rendered, and often he used this time to visit with the customer, a part of his job he thoroughly enjoyed. Sadly, though, Howard died on July 10, 2001, after a lengthy battle that required him to spend many weeks in the hospital. His presence is still terribly missed not only by his family members, but by the many people he came to know through the lawn service.

The business expanded in all directions, and grass was cut on Highland Mountain, at Allred, in the Windle community as well Willow Grove. On one of their trips to Willow Grove, Jeff mowed the wrong yard. One of their customers there asked if they could mow an additional yard while they were in that area, and Jeff agreed to do it. But he misunderstood the directions of just exactly where the house was, and ended up mowing the wrong yard. And not only did he mow at the wrong location, but he said the grass was knee high in the yard that he mistakenly mowed.

When Carl Copeland’s health failed, he went to live at the Overton County Nursing home. Jeff described his Pa during this time as someone whose body had worn out, but his mind was still as sharp as ever. One program he listened to on the radio every single day was the Swap Shop. Missing out of this program was not something he often did. Even while living at the nursing home, Carl continued to want to be involved in the business his grandsons had developed, and one day he told Jeff he decided they should rent a building just off the square of Livingston, and use that space for a lawn mower and chain saw repair business. When Jeff told his Pa he really didn’t think he wanted to do that, his grandfather’s reply to him was that he just didn’t know why in the world he wouldn’t want to! Eventually, Carl did give up on that idea.

Tim’s position with the Livingston Police department came in handy one day recently, even though he was not officially on duty. He and Jeff had stopped at the Four-Way Market to buy gas for their mowers to begin an afternoon of mowing. While in the process of pumping gas, a car pulled up with occupants in it that Tim had spent the entire day looking for. When he realized that these people were the ones he had arrest warrants for, he quickly got on his cell phone to call the police department and advise them of the situation. In the meantime, he placed the occupants under arrest. I suppose the surprise of being arrested by someone dressed to mow yards hasn’t worn off yet.

The part Carl Copeland played in the lives of his grandsons was one he could be quite proud of. The business today includes Jeff’s son, Jamie. Tim’s two daughters, Catlin and Casey, have had some involvement in helping out from time to time also. The Emerton business has grown to include over 50 lawns that they care for now. More than ten riding mowers have come and gone since the days when the one push mower was shared and hauled around in the back of Pa’s car. Jeff says some of their customers may quit them, but they never quit a customer. Since beginning their business, they have helped three other young men get started in the lawn service business. When called by someone who wants a yard mowed, they never tell that person no, we can’t do it. If they can’t get it done themselves, they’ll find someone who can. And no matter what kind of job Jeff has to do, one thing he stresses, "we’ll have a good time getting it done." I feel sure his Pa Copeland would be all smiles too if he could see the white truck and trailer with the motto "You grow it, we’ll mow it." He’s responsible for getting them started, and would have to be very happy to know that the part he played in the early years of their lives was quite important in the shaping of the good and productive young men they have become.



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