The other day, while I was mowing the lawn, backing up on the side of a steep hill, trying to avoid the stones being shot out at my bare feet while balancing my grandkids on my shoulders, I thought to myself: I wonder if there’s a safer way to do this?
No, just kidding, I wouldn’t do most of those things. Well, not at the same time, anyway.
Still, how dangerous could it be? I mean, I’ve run into burning buildings. I’ve been the lookout man for my brother’s fireworks experiments. I’ve braved the Wal-Mart parking lot on payday. I once ran into a burning Wal-Mart to save my brother’s fireworks. How dangerous could a rapidly spinning, sharpened metal blade be?
Turns out, pretty dangerous.
68,000 people are hurt by power mowers every year, 9,000 of them under 18. That doesn’t even count the injuries from those non-powered push mowers, one of which once fell on my head while I was trying to store it in the garage attic. At least I never set one of those on fire.
As for power mowers, I’ve suffered cuts, scrapes, bruises, burns, and smoke inhalation – and that was just the one incident. The ER doctor claims it’s some kind of record. The neighbors, who spent days pulling shrapnel out of their walls, didn’t see any humor in it at all. Neither did the former owners of that airplane, but if you ask me they were flying way too low.
I love summer, so this isn’t something I ordinarily complain about – after all, even I’ve never gotten frostbite while mowing. I’d rather die of heat exhaustion while pushing a bellowing lawn mower than lose the tips of my ears after shoveling snow drifts. Still, as a public service, I researched some of the ways in which my readers can be safer while cutting that grass:
Use a mower with one of those controls that shuts it down if you release the handle. Sure, it might be a pain now, but if your mower goes rolling down the hill without you, would you rather it be on or off? I mean, unless the hill needs mowed.
Wear sturdy shoes. I use hand me downs – day to day shoes that have deteriorated to such a point that they’re now only good for yard work. The only problem with that is that I tend to push my shoes to the limit: By the time they’re replaced, the soles look like a rather disgusting ice skating rink. Does anyone have an extra pair of those golf spikes to give me?
Before changing the blade settings, turn the mower off and disconnect the spark plug. Huh. The spark plug can be disconnected? Knowing that would have saved me three months on a heart monitor. No worries: I always changed the settings with a well aimed pistol shot.
Clear the lawn of anything that could become a projectile, such as stones, toys, and small animals. Learn from me, someone who once took out his own car window while mowing. Oddly enough, the cat escaped injury.
Either cover the mower’s opening, or use a collection bag for grass clippings. People collect grass clippings? Wow. Next you’ll be telling me they rake leaves.
Wear hearing and eye protection. Two words: iPod. I listen to podcasts, which are essentially talk radio without the annoying callers. However, when wearing ear protection keep careful watch for hazards, such as low flying airplanes.
Do not allow children as passengers on riding mowers. Well, of course not! If they’re old enough to ride, they’re old enough to mow themselves, while Dad checks his e-mail and has a nice bowl of ice cream.
Young children should not be allowed to use mowers. Oh. Disregard that previous comment.
Always turn off the mower before unclogging the discharge chute. This is good advice I originally got from my buddy, “Lefty” Liebowitz.
Do not start or fuel mowers indoors. Okay, is this really a problem? I mean, do guys get in trouble for firing up the John Deere while the wife is trying to watch her soaps? There must be a better way to de-clutter shag carpeting.
Finally: Never pull the mower backward unless absolutely necessary.
Heh. They’ve obviously never tried to mow my yard.
A few weeks ago I was pushing the mower under one of the lilac bushes behind my house (this is where I get most of my puncture wounds) when I caught a glimpse of something as I started to move limbs out of my way. There, at eye level maybe three feet in front of me, a cat crouched on a limb, eyes fixed on -- me. It was giving me this glare as if trying to say, “You so-and-so … you once cannonballed my uncle through your car window!”
Sure, I came back and made friends with it later, just to make sure it wasn’t planning to puncture my tires, slash the phone lines or write nasty graffiti on my house. (Sadly, it’s passed away since then – car windows were not involved.) But at that moment?
I’ve never backed up a mower so fast in my life. Luckily, a later toe count came out in the double digits.