In love with a mower
Warning: Many of the experiences reported in this column occurred while the author was on grass. If you have a problem with this sort of thing, please discontinue reading at this time. Not long ago, I was in Grand Junction shopping for a new lawn mower. Last September the rear wheel flew off my old Toro. It crashed down, cracking the crankcase drain plug in two pieces. Dirty, black oil spewed everywhere. The blade bent at a 90-degree angle, too. I felt extremely fortunate that all of this happened the very last time I used that machine.Anyway, as I perused the lawn implement section at Home Depot I noticed a kid assembling one of those old-fashioned push mowers without an engine.”You sell many of those things?” I snickered.”You’d be surprised,” he said, beginning to twist nuts. “Oh yeah,” I said. “How’s it cut?””Like a Surform shaving sugar pine,” he replied.”Well, I’d like to meet the man who could push one of those things around my yard on a hot summer day,” I remarked, and I started checking out a six-horsepower, self-propelled, 23-inch bladed mulcher.”Yeah,” he said. “Guys like you wouldn’t like a machine like this.”Why you dirty, little snot-nosed … “I’ll take one!”It turned out that the one he was working on was the only one they had. I carried the dusty old box to the checkout counter myself just to demonstrate my moxie. As I wrestled it through the parking lot to my car, I filled with pride. This was one step in getting back to the simple life. This contraption would take up almost no space in my garage. There would be no more running out of gas in the middle of the back yard, no more noxious smell of partially burnt fuel, and no more ringing ears or buzzing hands afterwards. I couldn’t wait to mow the lawn! During the two-hour asphalt cruise back home, my mind was fixed on one thought: “That kid was the best damn salesperson I’ve ever met!”As I pulled into the driveway, the kids surrounded the car to see what Target landfill fodder or Wal-Mart disposable lifestyle products I filled it up with. When I popped open the back door, all eyes were fixed on the big box.”It’s a lawn mower!” I exclaimed.The kids helped me rip the box apart and we separated all three parts. I pulled out an adjustable wrench and bolted the handle to the body. “There!” I said, standing back and looking it over proudly. “What do you think guys?””I think you forgot to buy the motor.””No,” I laughed. “You’re the motor.” I gave it a small push and the blades magically whirled around.After that, the hardest part was breaking up the fights over who got to mow the grass first. As soon as I got my children organized, a half dozen neighborhood kids showed up, anxious to give it a try. I assumed my supervisory position on the porch, cool brew in hand, and within 45 minutes the early season lawn was completely manicured. I felt like a middle-aged Tom Sawyer. I slightly regretted not charging each of them a buck to use my new toy, but I managed a smile anyway as I brushed off the Scotts Classic and put her away for another week.Well, it pretty much rained from sunup to sundown for the next six days. As stale as we grew indoors, the grass grew thick and long outside. By Saturday, my son Max was the only kid who showed any interest in taking a crack at the thick jungle that used to be our yard.The sight of the grass flying and the sound of the blade whirring under the power of man, even a small man, was absolutely splendid … for the length of time it took to cover a very short distance.”Whew! That’s a lot harder than last time, Dad.” He left the machine stalled in front of its short tracks. “I’ll be at the park if you need me,” he called over his shoulder, jogging west across the cul-de-sac into the world of real play.It was finally my turn. I stood behind the machine, running my hands across the handle to find the right position. I pulled it back a bit to gain some running room, and off I went. The feeling of my own energy flowing up my calves, through my thighs, into my torso, out my arms and down through the taut steel frame into the slicing blade was exhilarating. The fuel I burned was the breakfast I’d eaten; the spent energy evidenced by heat searing my muscles. My built-in radiator cranked up and the sweat poured off my forehead.As the severed grass flew behind the fury of energy released from my body, at last I understood the finite qualities of fuel. My legs ached under thirst for more of it. My stomach muscles cramped to the strain. Energy was suddenly precious, measured at a cost more personal than $2.87 per gallon. I knew then that I had discovered an incredibly valuable device to save the environment. The push mower is the type that makes you think. I felt how much energy was required to cut my lawn. This came from doing the same amount of work using my body as I would normally do aided by a motor. I never got this feeling riding my bike to work. Using my body to propel a 25-pound bike the eight-and-a-half miles from my house to town is not replicating the amount of work it takes to drive it. Perhaps if I could pedal my eight-passenger, 5,000-pound SUV over Sinclair Divide and down Owl Creek Road I would get a similar feeling. This was a revelation to me. I sat down on my front porch to survey the work I had done. I imagined nominating myself for an environmental award for this great contribution I was making to save our planet. Maybe someday, they would even put me in the Hall of Fame if only I could convince them of my important contribution. My gaze drifted upward toward the snow-covered ski slopes above me. My hopes melted faster than the last moguls paralyzed by the burning gaze of the late spring sun. I knew right then that I had not done nearly enough damage to the environment to ever be considered to receive an award for saving it. Roger Marolt wonders if global warming will have the chance to ruin our lives before we run out of oil. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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