When we moved from our old townhouse to our country home to say we were a little short in the department of yard care tools would be a vast understatement. The expansion of our yard from a 6 foot by 10 foot plot to an actual acre, complete with hundred year old garden plots, vintage plants and grandfather trees, left us a little shell shocked. Our finances were a bit bumpy the first year with the demands of our lifestyle change so yard maintenance was a bit pitch in and/or patch. We borrowed what we could and were thankful for any donations.
The grass was a big job and needed a big machine but the expense of a lawn tractor was out of the question. Tommy Twin Tower, one of “D”’s work friends, gave us an old push mower he wasn’t using anymore. It was a nasty beast that belched black smoke while oil leaked through the crumpled shop rag that had replaced the lost oil cap but it was free and it did the job. It got us through the first half of the summer when we purchased what we hoped would be at least a small improvement. We still could not afford a lawn tractor (“D” did not want to buy used as he always says it’s just buying someone elses’ problems) so we bought another push mower from, of all places, Canadian “Where Do You Go for Maintenance” Crappy Tire. It proved totally unsuitable for the job and would overheat after an hour and refuse to start up again for another three. It takes a healthy 15 year old around 5 to 6 hours to cut an acre of lawn with a push mower (it took me 3 days when I gave it a go) so there was a LOT of pitching in and patching.
This year we were determined that there would be no repeat of the Lawn Mower Indy 500. When tax return time came around, we shuffled off to the Sears Warehouse to have a look at last year’s discounted models. Now I must mention here that “D” had his heart set on the bright green and yellow of a John Deere. He had been ogling the advertising flyers that came in the Pennysaver for months drooling over additional mulch kits and all the other things that make a masculine heart bleed. Common sense decided that we would buy something "reasonable" for now and in 2 or 3 years time, he could straddle the sweet green tractor of his dreams.
We were able to find a Craftsman lawn tractor in our price range, paid the cash and brought it home. Having bought last year’s model, we didn’t expect it to be perfect but none the less we were a little disconcerted when we got it home to discover there were no keys for the ignition. Luckily, the keys from our neighbour’s John Deere were a perfect fit so we didn’t have to wait for the store to mail us out a pair. To “D”’s further delight he discover that the engine in his Craftsman was the exact same one that was in the neighbour’s John Deere…NOT just the same size but THE SAME ENGINE (something that will no longer be happening as John Deere has recently retained an exclusive contract for those engines). This little bon mot was able to shut up “D”’s coworkers at the factory who were ribbing him about not buying a John Deere.
Last summer the Prodigal Son had several incidents with the push mowers involving tree stumps. He did not manage to bend a shaft but I am sure he came close no matter what he says. There was also an unfortunate occurrence with the new push mower and an oil tank but as I was flying co pilot on that one the only thing I will say is that engine compression cannot occur on a full stomach. Over the winter, there had been a great deal of discussion about past mishaps and the care and concern that was to be taken with our spring purchase and the Prodigal Son had endured all the infamy as he hovered about in the neighbour’s garage hoping to scam a beer. There were threats that all the stumps were to be marked out with bright spray paint so they might be avoided. Since the job had been such a monumental one, over the past summer a nominal fee had been paid for services rendered. The Prodigal was assured that no such salary would be forthcoming with the arrival of the new tool as it would be an embarrassment to accept money for such an easy task (the Prodigal responded with the assertion that he could never be that proud). He was informed that he could not take the girlfriend out on a date with it and that they had better not see him touring around downtown and that if he damaged it he would be paying for it out of his ass (whatever that means). The Prodigal bore it all, if not stoically, with the good grace of a boy allowed to hang with the men. Perhaps he had some knowledge of the way it all would be in the end.
The Saturday dawned and it was time to put the lawn tractor to work. The Stepson was visiting for the weekend and he and the Prodigal set about cleaning up the winter ravaged yard. It proved a boring task and the boys decided to spice it up by taking turns riding in our neighbour’s trailer (we had borrowed it for the day). The Prodigal was driving and the Stepson was balanced on the side of the trailer when his weight tipped the whole thing up gouging a hole in the lawn and popping the spring that holds the trailer in place.
“D” and the neighbour had been replacing a coolant pipe on the Sunfire and they were practically prostrate with laughter as 240lbs of teenage boy rolled on the ground cradling his bruised knees and the Prodigal struggled to put the trailer to rights. It took a woman’s touch to fix the spring and the boys took off again towing at lawn tractor lightspeed. Finally it was time to mow the yard and “D” wanted to try the tractor before the boys “wrecked it”.
He pushed the throttle all the way up to "bunny rabbit" and careened off, slowing down only for the grass over the septic tank, as anyone who has seen it can tell you, that stuff really grows. Just “trying it” turned into him cutting the front lawn and then the back as well. The boys got tired of waiting for him to finish his "turn" and went in to play Xbox. I watched “D” whip across the lawn, squeeze through the garden paths and just about get his block knocked off as he raced under the branches of the pines at the back without ducking down far enough. That was a month and a half ago, the lawn has been cut four times, and the boys have yet to have used the lawn tractor for its original purpose.
Even though we still have to use the push mower to mow the driveway (it’s not paved) and cut in around the garden beds and trees the yard now takes around 1 ½ hours to do instead of 5. If a back gets sore it is not from pushing but from sitting for too long. “D” loves his tractor …if they get a chance, maybe someday the Prodigal and the Stepson will too.