An Alabama man who has been criss-crossing the U.S. to mow lawns for those in need made a stop Wednesday in Baton Rouge.
Rodney Smith Jr., of Madisonville, Alabama, began a 50-state "Mowing with Cops" tour last month to team up with local police officers to mow at least one yard in every state.
On Wednesday, Smith landed in Baton Rouge, and with the help of Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Kyle Callihan cut the grass at the home of a single mom.
Smith founded Raising Men Lawn Care Service to mow lawns for free for the elderly, single parents, veterans and those with disabilities — and usually works with youngsters on the projects.
But on this tour, police are helping out.
Callihan said he talked with Smith by phone about 1 p.m. on Wednesday and by 4 p.m. was meeting Smith at the Parkforest Drive home to mow the yard.
The mowing job went fast, with Smith's two lawn mowers — one striped black and white, with lights on top, like a police unit — a weed trimmer and a blower.
"It was a flash, like the wind," Callihan said of the work. "Smith said 'I've got to get to Jackson, Mississippi, before sunfall' to mow a yard."
Smith had been steered to Callihan by two groups, Visit Baton Rouge and Behind the Line Baton Rouge, the spousal support group of the Baton Rouge Police Department.
Callihan said others probably knew that helping out with Mowing With Cops would be a natural for him — an officer in community policing, he regularly organizes Halloween trick-or-treat events, 5-K runs and bicycle pickups and donations.
On the website of Raising Men Lawn Care Service, Smith says, "Growing up I always wanted to be a police officer, but God had other plans. Mowing lawns for FREE is my way of serving the public."
When the Louisiana mowing job was done, Smith asked Callihan if he would sign the "police unit" lawn mower, adding his name to other officers' around the country.
In return, Callihan gave Smith a lapel pin from the Baton Rouge Police Department, to join others that Smith wears on his hat. The pin was one with a picture and the radio call number for the late Baton Rouge Police Officer Shane Totty who died earlier this year when his motorcycle was struck as he was driving with a funeral procession.
Smith told Callihan that it was the first pin he had received of a fallen officer.
"I'll put it right here on front," Smith said.