Lil’ Wheels

The other unfortunate time in a man’s life is when he’s got to get a new lawn mower.

You know how I feel about cutting grass. Biggest single waste of time in the history of mankind. Why do we do it? I don’t know. I’d just a soon not, but the neighbors get antsy if I go more than a couple of months without mowing. Can’t imagine why.

About a month ago someone in my breakfast club said, “Gonna mow the yard this weekend,” and I looked at him with sheer malice.

“Are you nuts?” I demanded. “I don’t plan on touching a lawn mower until May.”

“Oh, not, you can’t wait that long!” they exclaimed.

“Possibly June, if the fish are biting,” I added with appropriate disdain.

But it had gotten to the point where the clover was about to take over the yard, and I knew I had to do something before a tribe of pygmies moved in. This is sovereign territory, after all. Now, my 1998 mower had seen its better days. Affectionately nicknamed the General after Gen. George Armstrong Custer, the anti-hero of Indians everywhere, the General had its rusting cutting deck repaired four times with cloth and epoxy. The steering got to where it would go either 90 degrees left or 90 degrees right, with no in between, which made for some interesting maneuvers in the yard. It often wouldn’t start at all, fearing that I was in fact a throwback from Little Big Horn and had come for another round of behind-kicking. It also ate belts like spaghetti. I overhauled the stator ring, the starter and the clutch. Sometimes it would creep along in fifth gear like a snail, other times it would be all jerky and such.

I had been saving my pennies for a long time, and figured it was now or never, before I went and bought a buncha fly rods instead. So Saturday I borrowed my buddy’s trailer and went to get a new lawn mower. A grand later, I was as vehemently opposed to the entire notion of lawn mowing as I had ever been. For that I could have bought:

– Five good fly rods.

– Three really good fly rods.

– Two top-notch, Cadillackin’ fly rods.

– Two canoes

– One canoe and one kayak.

– A week in Mountain Home, Arkansas fly fishing the White River for big trout.

– Or just cut to the chase and buy about 500 pounds of fish.

You get the idea. But no. All those months of saving up, resisting the urge to bust the piggy open and let his fat belly spill out all those precious coins so that I could gleefully run off to nirvana…and I have to spend it on a stupid lawn mower.

There is no justice.

But I got it home and before I could give it a whirl, I had to pick up all the limbs that had fallen since the last time I cut grass in October. I still had my neighbor’s trailer, so I commenced to picking up sticks. Now, if there’s a chore I hate worse than mowing the grass, it is picking up the stupid sticks first. Besides, I am not only depriving a pygmy of a nice clover-studded home site, but denying him firewood to boot.

A couple hours of bending, picking up, throwing, repeat, and I was ready for the Advil, or Geritol maybe (is there still such a thing?) and finally I had enough storm debris cleared to see the clover.

I got my grass cutting fedora, a cigar and a Diet Coke then climbed aboard my new shiny steed, and sat there for about two minutes with what I’m sure was a foolish look on my face before dismounting, going in the shop and getting the instruction manual.

After a few more minutes and a better understanding of what all these mysterious switches and levers do (hey, the old one only had a couple) I fired the thing up, and the engine roared to life.

And I do mean roared. With almost twice the horsepower and cutting width, I felt like I was perched on a chariot of the gods. I figured out how to put it in gear and set the speed, starting in the first gear of seven, and then engaging the blade.

Nice. Pretty dang nice. I cut the whole front and back yard, and came within a mile or two of actually enjoying myself. That’s pretty close, for me.

Just to see what this baby was capable of, I disengaged the blade, pressed the clutch and put her in seventh gear, let up the pedal and VAROOOM! The dang thing took off like a racehorse, and I was holding on for dear life. The g-forces pinned me to the seat, and if I hadn’t held on with white knuckles to the steering wheel I would have been blown off. We were heading straight toward the bayou and with an incredible amount of effort I wrenched the wheel to avoid the five century-old oak tree in the back yard, went careening on two wheels in a wide circle across my yard and two of my neighbors’ yards, took a barely controlled spin through the tribal school property, passed across my mother’s front porch, nearly wiped out my mail box – snatched the mail out as I flew by – and finally got my foot to the clutch brake to slow the demon down back at the house. By this time, my cigar was in my pocket, the Diet Coke on my mother’s porch and the mailbox was wearing my hat.

Perhaps that’s how horse and buggy folks felt when the first shanty Fords hit the market.

“Slow down!” Ma and Pa would holler at the blazing 1909 Ford, kicking up dust and gravel at an amazing, ripping speed of eight miles per hour. “Ya dagnabbed young whipper snappers!”

“What’s this world coming too, Pa?” Ma would ask

Pa would just shake his head. “Giddy up, there, mule,” he’d say, and grumble all the way home how the world was going to hell in a hand basket.

3 comments to Lil’ Wheels

  • pete cooper, jr.

    oooh cher, that was good. But one question – well, two.
    What did you do with The General, and what are you going to name the new one? I mean, it just has to have an appropriate moniker.
    How ’bout Hi yo, Silver. Oh wait, that was the other guy’s horse…

  • Sort of reminds me of an old metallic green rider the family picked up somewhere. It had been ‘worked on’ and tweaked out with a 11 hp motor where a seven or 8 had been. The clutch was stiff and engaging the drive train was more like popping the clutch no matter what you did. 4th gear was a wheelie for 30 feet in the yard and gravel throwing burnout in the drive. I think the deck went bad from the overdose of ponies and the motor was pulled cause of parental concerns. I own a big old White now 18 hp three point 50 inch deck.

  • Roger Stouff

    The General is ready to be moved to his retirement home, i.e., the dump!

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