Sunday, April 27, 2014

Do you have to mow your yard?

OK, it’s out there. I’ve put it off as long as I can. While I am sitting here writing about it, the lawn tractor is in the shed waiting for me. A few minutes ago, I filled it with gas, checked the oil and put the battery on charge. Soon I will be out there riding around the yard mowing down the spring crop of weeds that always come out before the grass starts growing. And thus begins another growing season on the “south fourty”.

As much as I hate the cold and ice, I do appreciate the respite that Old Man Winter gives me between October and May. Maybe it is because keeping the yard mowed was one of the responsibilities that my brother and I had growing up. In Florida, that was a weekly chore to be taken care of every Saturday morning darn near year long down there. And to boot, we had to use one of those old push mowers; not the kind with the motor on them, but the kind that was “boy powered!” We pushed the mower that turned the wheels that in turn powered the cylinder of blades that cut the grass. That meant that you had to have a head of steam going before the blades were turning fast enough to cut grass. That was a true aerobic workout way before the Canadian Air Force 5BX exercise plan was published first published in 1961 by Bill Orban. By noon we were all hot and sweaty, but the yard looked nice.

In the early 60s, Dad bought our first powered mower. It looked much like the push mowers that we used before except it had a Briggs and Stratton motor mounted on top and connected to the blades by a chain. There was a throttle on one side and a clutch on the other that we used to control the mower. This was much better; we could finish the yard in half the time and by barely breaking out a sweat. Life was good… at least for a while. Dad had a plan, you see! The next thing we knew, my brother and I were the lawn mowing kings of the entire neighborhood. There were three or four widows living on our block and soon we were mowing all their yards at fifty cents a pop. We were now spending all Saturday morning and part of the afternoon mowing yards. Oh, we also learned the cost side as we had to now purchase the oil, gas and parts we needed when we had to make our own repairs. Oh yes, we had to do our own yard for free. Dad was smart; he made his investment in the mower pay off big time. That mower paid for itself many times over.

My college and bachelor years were the only time in my life when I did not have mowing responsibilities. When we bought our home one of the first tools acquired was a lawn mower. This time it was the circular type, but I still had to push it. Up here in South Carolina, the grass was not as lush as it was in Florida, instead of St, Augustine, Centipede grass was the norm and it could go two weeks between mowing except during the peak growing times. Still it was hot sweaty work. As I got older and older, it started taking more of a toll. I started to worry about it some when a friend, who was 35 years older than I was at the time, mowed his yard on a hot summer day, only to discover when he finished that the power had gone off and he had no air conditioning. He sat down in an easy chair and passed away from a stroke.

So I began to talk with other friends to see how they were managing the summer heat and the danger of mowing yards. One of them, who had a yard about the same size as mine, a little less than an acre, told me that he had purchased a riding mower. “No way!” I exclaimed. “Yes Way!” He retorted. I thought that was ridiculous and for a few more years I continued to toil in the hot sun, taking longer and longer to get the job done until I realized that it was taking more than an hour and a half to complete the yard and then I needed to rest under a shady tree with a tumbler of ice water for another half hour before I could clean up and come in. Finally, a few years ago, we were passing the line of lawn tractor/mowers in front of Lowes and I stopped to look at one. To make a long story short, I can now completely mow the yard in 30 minutes and complete the touch up trim with my old power mower in another 15 minutes.

So, in a few minutes, I will eat some lunch while the charger puts a last few ergs of energy into the battery of my lawn tractor and off I will go on another Summer’s adventure of mowing. Oh, by the way, there still is no substitute for that smell of a newly mowed yard, don’t ya think? Oh MY!

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