SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
Lawn mowing isn’t a job: It’s an adventure.
I celebrated Spring Clean-up this year by putting my old lawn mower out for pickup. I was using this mower last year when a great deal of oil started spurting out all over (from it, not me). Investigation revealed that the oil was not coming from one of the openings that oil might come out of – oh no. It was coming from a brand new opening.
Going back still another year, you might remember this very same lawn mower as the one I was pushing when the handle suddenly dissolved into numerous pieces, which scattered across the lawn in a pattern that spelled out “Ha!”. I found what I thought was one of those pieces still on the mower deck, and picked it up. The pattern of that bolt, which -- it turned out -- was actually from the engine, is imprinted to this day on the palm of my hand.
No connection has ever been established between that red-hot doohickey and the auto-dismembering handle, but what are the odds?
(By the way, somebody swiped that mower before the Spring Clean-up people got to it; more power to them.)
The lawn mower before that lost its life when I pulled the handle to start it, but failed to notice that the rope didn’t retreat back into the machine, where it belonged. Then I ran over the rope. It wasn’t pretty, but my father eventually took that mower to his Home for Mistreated Machines (he established HMM in my honor), and it’s now happily whacking away at the back forty, without a care. (In other words, without me.)
The lawnmower before that just ... stopped.
The one before that is the Infamous Exploding Lawnmower, which caused the first ever Level One Hazardous Material Emergency in the history of Noble County, and ended up featured on both CNN and “The Simpson’s”. The parts of it that could be located are now on display in the Smithsonian, after being borrowed by an investigation team from the History Channel program, “Engineering Disasters”.
What I’m saying is, I have a history.
Last fall, after my last lawn mower sacrificed its lifeblood (still visible in a dead patch of back yard grass that spells out “help me”), a friend let me borrow his. I know – what a friend! Any guy who would do that would leap in front of a bus to save a puppy.
Ironically, the mower ran just fine under my borrowship. Not a problem, not so much as a nicked blade. It was a freakin’ miracle.
Then my friend, who’s living in a place that doesn’t require him to mow, announced that he was giving me the mower, and that was pretty much all she wrote.
Now, here’s the thing: My mowers don’t screw up the same way twice. One time it’ll be the starter rope; another time it’ll be a cracked head (not unlike the one I got on the roof last year); another year it’ll be sheets of flame and a towering mushroom cloud. It’s important to my roommate Murphy (of Murphy’s Law fame) that I not get too comfortable with my disasters. For instance, my holey kitchen roof has leaked 14 times – but never in the same place twice.
So I’m mowing the lawn the day after the mower officially became mine, and it stops. Just stops, after once around the lawn. I manage to get it started. Once around, it stops again. After some effort, including changing the gas, oil and sparkplug, and some imaginative praying, I get it going again. Once around, it stops.
Changing fluids is about the extent of my capabilities. Yes, I can change the sparkplug, but that’s an iffy thing that once led to me regaining consciousness in a crumpled heap. But I started doing some detective work, and I eventually made a remarkable discovery:
When the mower leaned toward the right, it kept running. When it leaned toward the left, it stopped. Every time.
I had a conservative lawn mower.
Luckily for me, very little of my lawn is level; in fact, there’s every indication that the entire property is sliding downhill. The US Geological Service has estimated that within the next hundred years my house will be west of the old Albion Car Wash, which is a problem because right now it’s east of the old Albion Car Wash. The same team that handled the Leaning Tower of Pizza is working on the problem.
But my lawn wasn’t going to wait a hundred years, so I elected to do the simple and straightforward: Keep the lawn mower’s right side pointed downhill at all times.
I gotta tell you, that’s nowhere near as easy as I thought it might be:
* Sooner or later, you’ve got to turn around. Otherwise, the neighbors will get very annoyed.
* Lawn mowers are not designed for backing up.
* When you do back up, you can’t watch both the mower and the dog droppings.
* slipping while pulling a lawnmower toward you is the closest thing you can get to an instant of sheer terror without being in a plane crash.
* Pulling a lawn mower toward you is dumb.
My conclusion is that this is a genius way to torture me. Here I am, in possession of a mower that’s perfectly capable of mowing as long as it’s tilted in one direction. Why replace it? That’s money I could use for other things, like utility bills, food, or crutches. Besides, this is Indiana – I’m surprised there aren’t more right wing lawn mowers. So I’m stuck, you might say, in a lurch.
Sometimes I think my lawn can’t slide away soon enough.