Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Got the Ol' Lawnmower Blues

When I was a lad I earned money by going about talking neighbors into letting me mow their yard or wash their car. I had those as chores at home  too. To my mind I didn't get paid to mow my own backyard, although I got a quarter allowance every week. Somehow the idea of that quarter being earned income didn't compute in my pee-wee brain. I was a notorious procrastinator when it came to chores, except burning the trash in the big 55 gallon drum out back. I liked to light a fire and pretend it was a burning city.

Sometimes on those really hot days of August washing the car wasn't so bad either.

But I had little fondness for lawn mowing then or ever after. I considered it one of the great flukes of mankind or was it one of the curses placed on Adam after the fall. What a brilliant idea this, shave down the grasses and create a perpetual labor to be repeated ad nauseum during the hottest months of the year.

Nonetheless, through the decades I have managed to manicure my own grounds to the satisfaction of county codes, if not always to the particulars of some of my more green-thumb cursed neighbors.

As a boy, of course, I used a push mower, you know, no motor, all elbow grease. Very few people around had a power mower in those days, except those some where above the average blue collar families such as mine. Despite the fact that power mowers became to eventually outnumber the old muscle powered devices throughout suburbia, I continued to use such devices halfway into the 1990s.

I probably wouldn't have stopped then if my thyroid hadn't blown it circuits. When that gland decided to go rogue it sapped away my strength, even to the point I could barely walk. I certainly wasn't in shape to force a mower over our less than even grounds. I broke down and bought my first power mower. That was some time around 1995.

I think it ran pretty well for several years, but everything breaks eventually and one day I found it lying still behind the shed, four wheels motionless toward the sky. I tried CPR (crank, pull, repeat), but it was too little too late. It was gone. I went out and bought a replacement.

This time I got one of those self-propelled babies with the big bag on back. Man, it was just more ease on a task I despised, and we found we could suck up autumn leaves in that bag. If there was something I disliked more than mowing, it was leaf raking. Hey, you were dumb enough to jump off that tree, so just lay there and rot!

My wife never quite shared my attitude. She believed in a proper disposal of departed leaves, so crunching up dead leaves in a bag was a blessing.

That mower went belly up as well after a few seasons. It didn't seem to last as long as the former one
actually. The problem was in the self-propulsion. Something kind of went off track there and I couldn't get it back where it should be and the machine became a bear to push. I shoved it aside into the lawnmower graveyard (pictured right) and went out and bought another of its kin, only with more power and bigger bag.

Well, this did me well until two years ago and suddenly it got temperamental. It'd start up instantly, but after I mowed several rows it would sputter out. It would rest a bit and then stubbornly not start until about the time pulling cord had turned my arm into a rubber band. Over the course of summer these rests grew longer and the starts grew harder and finally it gave up the ghost.

I thought this sounded like a clogged fuel filter. I went to Sears and found a fuel filter that I though was for my machine. I even asked the clerk and he agreed, so I bought it. I went home and torn the thing apart and what to my surprise did I find? This model mower did not have a fuel filter.

Thus last year I went up to Home Depot and got a new mower. I stood there and stared at an old-time push
mower for a long time, but since my wife often chooses to go out and mow the front yard (before neighbors begin throwing things), I figured she would prefer an engine. Our budget is an ever shrinking commodity anymore, so I went for the cheapest power mower on display, just over a hundred buck. (I think the non-powered push mower actually cost more.)  This was your basic basic. It had wheels and it had a blade and it had a motor, but you supplied the push. There was no bag. It simply mulched up the grass and spit it out over the lot. It was a cool black.

It was wonderful. Without those self-propellant gears and no bag growing fuller by the row it proved light and fast. I mean I could blaze through all my yards and even do the east side of the house where none of my other mowers choose to go. We use to have to go hack that stuff down with weedwackers and sling blades.

But not real long into the season something odd happened. I was racing along in the back yard with the mower roaring when suddenly it started going put-put-put. It kept running and it kept cutting, but at a snails pace. I tiptoed along behind. If I sped too fast into high grass it would stall. But then after several more rows of this turtle speed it would kick up into high gear again and we would be back whizzing along lopping off their heads. And then again back to put-put-put. We nursed this thing through the summer and fall, but then it too gasped out one last put-put and died.

Wednesday I was back in Sears looking at lawn mowers. It isn't that I wanted to buy a new mower and my budget is even worse than last year, but the grass is inching up and we must do what we must do. I admit, I stood again drooling over the old powerless push mower, but because of recent health issues I have once again grown weak and need the motorized help.

I next turned my sights on a battery powered mower. Wouldn't that be nice if it could do the job? There
would be no more running to the gas station and no more of that terrible noise. I could be environmentally friendly mowing away in peace and quiet. I inquired of the clerk about this machine. She was very nice, very helpful. It seemed it would do my sized lot, but battery charge (6 hours to fully charge) would depend on length of grass (keep it under 2 inches), and how wet the grass is (keep it pretty dry). I was tempted, but still didn't want to spend the money on something that might not do the job.

I turned and pointed to the cheapest gas-guzzling, plain vanilla, bagless animal and said, "Ill take that one." After paying the $170 (oh yeah this was the absolute cheapest one and on sale no less), I went down to the pickup area to receive my purchase. I dutifully pulled my car up along the loading zone. Inside I ran my receipt over a scanner and my name popped up on a status screen above my head. Shouldn't take long, I was the only one there.

As I waited in my queue of one a stock person came out the flappy doors of the warehouse and passed by me.

What a downcast face he had. His chin was so low it was in danger of being bumped off by his shoe. He looked like the dead walking.  I got the feeling he wasn't overly thrilled with his lot in life, but he was quickly gone before I could offer him any solace. He would have probably eaten my brain if I had anyway.

A time or so later the warehouse doors flopped outward again and another glum young man came out behind a flat cart on which perched a large box. He said nothing. As he angled forward I could see "Lawn Mower" in big black letters on the side of the box. Ah, this must be mine!

He continued mutely pass me and out the door to the sidewalk, then down a ramp in the curb and around my car. Still not a word, no, "Are you Mr. Meredith?", no, "You waiting for a lawnmower?", no simple, "Hello". I walked to the rear of my car and opened the truck. He lifted the box off the hand truck and slid it in. Still not a word. I think Sears has Zombies manning their customer service pickup.  I think he might have mumbled something when I said, "Thank you," but I couldn't make it out. He never even asked to check my receipt. He never even looked my in the eyes. I could have been anyone just snatching up a free lawnmower and he wouldn't have cared.

I worked as a stock person most of the last decade. This is not how I ever dealt with customers. This is not the way any store should want to be represented by their employees. I don't get these young men. With where the unemployment rate is these days (and it is understated to boot) any one having a job should be grateful to have it. If you don't like your job, then look for something else, but don't take your frustration out on the client.

Enough preaching, I drove home to assemble my new acquisition. I soon learned what a sad state I am
in these days. I cut open the box and lifted it out. Construction was not complicated. You know, hook a cable on the handle as well as the pull cord. Pull the handles to full height by loosing and tightening some large wing nuts. Attach the mulch guard and the rear wheels. Adjust the front wheels. Put in oil.

I couldn't even finish. By the time I got to attaching the mulch guard I was too tired to stand. I packed up my tools and called it a day.  I went out this morning and finished up. I still need to get gas, but that's okay. I wasn't going to pull the cord and start mowing today in this heat anyway broke the record by 3 degrees today at 88). The grass isn't that bad yet that it can't wait for a cooler day for its execution.

So I tell the little woman I got a new mower. "Does it have a bag," she asked.

"You thinking about the leaves," I asked.


"That's the fall. Let's worry about the leaves when the leaves fall."

1 comment:

Ron said...


First of all, where in your backyard is this Lawnmower Graveyard? I have a picture in my mind like Tarzan discovering the elephants;' graveyard in those cheesy Tarzan movies. Another thing, I think most of those mowers could have been fixed. One thing I never understood, why is it necessary to have a pull cord on those mowers? I always hated that.

And yes, about "service" these days. Something to behold isn't it? I too have on more than on occasion encountered the glum, speechless, barely there clerk who gave me the impression I was mightily interfering with his day. "Sorry I bothered you, now you can go back too sleep."
As for as my yard work goes, this year (in fact yesterday) I decided that next year I hire someone to lay mulch in my back yard. I just cannot do it anymore. In fact, I'm also going to have someone come in and trim the hedges. I love working outside but each year I can't keep up with the maintenance and the growth in our backyard just gets away from me. Thank goodness Bill still mows the lawn. If he goes, then I am in a pickle. We have one (actually two) of those John Deere riding mowers, I like them once I get on but starting them is tricky and all those runs back and for to the gas station to buy gas. I don't need the bother,