When I was but a lad in shortpants I couldn't wait to show my father I was capable of mowing our lawn - to push that mower back and forth across the yard for a feeling of accomplishment which can only come with a well-shorn plot. It was a year of discoveries as well. Discovering that using a $500 LawnBoy the elderly lady down the street owned to mow her lawn for cash was a dream to use compared to our aging push-mower, which, while excessively vibratory, could indeed launch me from start to finish in about 30-seconds if you leaned against the handle just right while pushing. But once dad handed me the reins, he never mowed our yard again. From about 12, until I left home, it was entirely my responsibility, and let me tell you - it gets old. Fast. And the replacement mower ran far too smoothly for any collateral joy, but I digress.
It dawned on me this weekend that I'd never bought a mower. As us kids left the house, and my dad got older, he starting buying nicer mowers, which I inherited every couple of years to replace the $99 push-mower he got us for our first house which didn't die for fully TEN YEARS. God I hated that mower. And he was so proud of our first custom home that he mowed my yard - for fun and exercise. So I've never had to buy one. At any rate, the last one he'd given me was a nice 6.5 horsepower self-propelled Toro...with a broken drive. "But you're young, and strong," my old man told me when he gave it to me. "You can push it...Besides, your yard is small."
And its true. But self-propelled mowers are heavier. Much heavier. And you push against the gears when they go out, which still turn, so its additional friction. In fact, I've been fighting that sonofabitch for the past two years, but I never realized exactly *how* hard that mower was to push until this weekend. I'd bought the 5.5 horsepower Yard Boy at Wal-Mart for $170 during lunch Friday, the one just below this one. It was sitting in my car in the parking lot at work when Mr. Witwicky (not his real name, but what my wife calls him) noticed it in my car and asked if it was the $195 one from Home Depot? The Yard Machines? Which is made by Troy-Bilt? And has the 6.75 horsepower engine? Because that's important, especially for tall grass. And the large back wheels? Which turn and push so much easier than small wheels. He'll never get small wheels again. And it was down from $220. Did I get that one? No?
[Mr. Witwicky exits stage left]
I left work with gritted teeth and drove to Home Depot to verify his claims. There it was. Beautiful. Then on to Wal-Mart where I tugged that huge friggin' box out of my Tib, got a refund, drove back to Home Depot and bought the mower. "That Mr. Witwicky sure knows what he's talking about." My wife says. His word is now hallowed in the halls of our house. And let me tell you something - its not yet summer, the weather here was high 60s, maybe low 70s. A good, constant breeze, but not windy. I cracked open a New Belgium 1554 Black Ale, reached into my humidor to discover a forgotten cigar my wife's biological father had sent me for Christmas, and I mowed the lawn more tediously than I ever have before. One handed. I made half-swatches. I went back-and-forth over the thick spots, and I walked really, really, slow. I've never mowed a lawn of any size more slowly than this weekend, and it was heaven.
In fact, my whole weekend was fantastic. I made banana pancakes for the kids, we worked around the house, my wife re-laid our flower bed and the kids and I gamed quite a bit: Age of Empires III and UT2004. My weekend seemed very long - sometimes Production Maintenance eats up a weekend, but since mine was in the middle of night, and I'd gotten three-hours sleep prior & after, it really just seemed to extend my waking hours. What a wonderful weekend. What a wonderful family. Pretty soon, it'll be my turn to hand over the reins.