- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

MACON, Ga. (AP) - When he thinks about the future - his future - Johnathan Chatman imagines a fleet of neon-green landscaping vans.

He wants them to really stand out, with, say, “Chatman Bros. Landscaping” painted on the sides.

If the vans are anything like Chatman, the vans will catch more than a few eyes.

Chatman, 19, is a senior at Northeast High School in Macon and an aspiring entrepreneur. He already has plenty of experience running his own business.

He has two lawn mowers and a pair of weed trimmers. He used them to cut grass all summer. This fall, he and some of his younger brothers - when he can enlist them - rake lawns in their neighborhood near the Indian Mounds.

Chatman does it to help his mother, who is single, take care of his 12 siblings. Most are younger than he is. The baby isn’t a year old.

Chatman chose lawn work to follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, who ran a lawn service before he died in his 80s and whom Chatman began working with when he was just 7.

“I want to teach my little brothers how to do it,” he says. “They see me cutting grass and say, ‘I want to be like you.’”

June O’Neal, executive director of the Mentors Project of Bibb County, has known Chatman for a few years.

“He could look at all his brothers and sisters and say, ‘They aren’t my responsibility.’ But he doesn’t,” O’Neal says. “He does what’s right, not what’s easy.”

Chatman has an unassuming manner and almost says “yes ma’am” and “yes sir” to a fault. He wears earphones and listens to instrumental music when he works. “It makes time go by quicker,” he says.

During the summer, he sometimes mowed three yards a day.

Customers, he has learned, can be picky. Cutting their grass can be like giving them a haircut.

“I ask them before how they want it,” he says.

To find more clients, he goes door to door, leaving index cards with his name on them.

He charges $35 a yard.

“Half my money I give to my mom for food and bills,” Chatman says.

He needs a riding mower to do more yards. A pickup truck to haul his gear would help even more. He could get to more work instead of just the yards he can lug his mowers to on foot.

Often he meets people who’ll ask him to do their yards but, because they live too far from him, he has no way to get to them.

“I’ve learned,” Chatman says, “to take advantage of every opportunity I have. Before I had cut grass like in eighth grade, but I had stopped to play around. But I knew I could cut grass to help my mom, that it was what I needed to do. Then I could put a smile on my mama’s face.”

___

Information from: The Macon Telegraph, https://www.macontelegraph.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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