Sunday, April 10, 2011


When I have to mow my lawn, I push a lawnmower. I say “when I have to mow” because I often don’t. During the summer I don’t water it, hence, it doesn’t grow. And as Johnny Cochran said as he stood in front of a grinning O.J. Simpson, “If it doesn’t grow, you mustn’t mow.”

Or he said something like that.

Sometimes Mother Nature prefers that my front yard not be an arid wasteland, so she dumps rainfall by the bucket. This spring has been particularly wet, hence, whatever groundcover was clinging to life in the soil has been thoroughly resuscitated. Lush, green, and lawn-like. What a pain.

Mostly it is a pain for my son, because when the lawn needs mowing, he is more than likely the one to do it. On occasion I would have to badger him, but eventually he learned that there was no escape, and he could either do it now or later. Later just ensured that it would be longer, and while your garden-variety power mower has no problem with long blades of grass, the push mower does exactly as its name implies.

You push the mower, the mower pushes over the tall grass rather than clipping it, and as you pass the grass stands tall and seems to give you the finger . . . a long, thin, green finger.

With the warming weather we are reaching the point when we can once again store our mower for nearly six months. It fits neatly along the wall of the garage, sticking out barely twelve inches, and is forgotten—except perhaps by the wife who has to make sure she doesn’t stub her toe on it whilst climbing into the car. But, hey, twelve inches! Try being a little more careful.

If we had a riding mower it would be much more difficult to store, though much easier to avoid stubbing a toe upon because it is just so damned big. Our front and back yards are not of sufficient size to warrant a riding mower, but I’ve seen folks with not much bigger plots than mine who own such a mechanical beast. Probably too much disposable income, or they like their toys, or they just aren’t burning enough gas in their SUVs driving a half-mile to the grocery store. Some people like to burn gas.

When I bought my most recent push mower it was an easy decision because they only sold two models. There were a dozen or more gas or electric models, but the quasi-Amish had a very limited selection. I stuck with the trusted man-power option because it was what I grew up with. Choosing between the two was easy: I went with the cheapest.

If you are going with a riding mower, however, beware: you will spend as much time choosing your mower as you spent naming your first-born. And you will spend as much as you spent on your first car. These things are rated by horsepower, cubic centimeters, width, length, and maybe even girth, and priced accordingly. A hasty decision is not recommended.

Five speed or only four, anti-scalp wheels (whatever those are) or not, CARB-compliance for those of you mowing in California, it is a heady mix of choices. You can even buy spiked tires à la Mad Max to aerate your lawn as you mow . . . or to effectively staple your neighbor’s foot to the ground if he should accidentally trespass while trimming the hedge you share.

The latest method of one-upmanship between mowing madmen (and let’s face it, we are talking about men here; most women are sensible enough to hire someone to do the work should their yard be of too-large size) is the turning radius of their suburban tractor. Like you (perhaps), I thought a zero-turn riding mower meant it only went in a straight line. Useful if your lawn is four feet wide and a hundred yards long.

What it actually means is that the vehicle has a turning radius of zero inches. It will pivot through 180 degrees without leaving a circle of uncut grass. None of this back and forth to line up the blades and overlap the last cut. I don’t know why this is such a big deal. If the square footage of the lawn in question warrants the ownership of a riding mower, surely there is enough room to operate a mower that turns more like a 1968 Plymouth Valiant.

After all, when I mow the lawn, I have to turn the push mower around and take a moment to line it up.

I mean, my son does.

1 comment:

  1. Call me crazy, but when I owned my house, I actually really enjoyed the yard work. I had manual shrub clippers and a gas-powered (although manual-push) mower. I prefer the simpler mechanics because the way I see it, the less technological my tools, the less often they break.

    Hey, with any luck, your son will turn out liking to do yard work when he has his own property some day like I do. Sounds like living with you, he's in the same boat I was about 10 years ago.