BY PETER HAILEY
Clevane Gillespie Sr. is used to having people knock on his door.
That's because the North Chesterfield, Va. resident has quite the attraction on his front lawn -- or, should we say, his front lawn is quite the attraction. And everyone -- from his neighbors, to local news outlets, and even some members of the police force -- come by to check it out.
Ever since 2009, Gillespie, a self-proclaimed "lifelong" Redskins fan, has turned his yard into a colorful, 3D shrine to the Burgundy and Gold. And this season's edition is particularly eye-catching:
"Each year, I make it more unique," Gillespie said in a phone interview about his lawn. "First it started flat. Then each year, I raised it by a foot. Then I put it on a slant. And then I asked myself, 'Let me see if I can do it in 3D.'"
Washington has been Gillespie's favorite team for as long as he can remember. Growing up in North Carolina, he said the Redskins were the franchise he would see each Sunday.
"Back on that little black-and-white screen, the helmets with the little 'R's' on 'em were all I ever saw."
The 2015 version of Gillespie's lawn is especially impressive, but it wasn't a project that involved much teamwork. Gillespie said the lawn took somewhere between two-and-a-half and three months to complete -- and he did it mostly on his own.
"My routine is that I wake up around 6 in the morning, and sometimes, I work until 9 at night, if you can believe that. I love to design," he said.
There is one person who is around to watch Gillespie's create his masterpiece, though, and that's his wife Bettie (she, too, is a 'Skins fan. She tells everyone she pretty much has to be after marrying Clevane). Her lone job is to make sure that the 56-year-old takes water breaks and doesn't tire himself out.
The whole creation is mulch, according to Gillespie. The reason for that is because, back in 2007, he was involved in a landscaping accident that injured his back and caused him to lose control of his left arm. After a lengthy surgery, Gillespie had to learn to re-use the arm, and while doing so, got tired of taking care of his grass. So when he started building his yearly shrines, he decided keeping it 100% mulch was the best way to approach it.
When talking to Gillespie, his optimism and passion is immediately evident, even through the phone. That optimism carries over into his expectations for the franchise he dedicates his property to, as well, as he sees the Burgundy and Gold doing better than almost everyone expects them to.
"I believe we can win 10 games," Gillespie predicted. "I believe RG3 is going to have a coming out season, too. I really believe we'll win 10 games."
If Gillespie does this much yard work for a team who's won just seven times over the past two seasons, one has to wonder how much effort he'll put in if they end up performing the way he predicts. And if the Redskins ever win a Super Bowl?
Gillespie will probably need a bigger lawn.
Photos courtesy of Atron Thorne