Toys for Boys

     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.


17 thoughts on “Toys for Boys

  1. That\’s a great \’yard\’ story –  I like the changes that you\’ve made to youe site – have yourself a fine week-end!


    One of the many things I lost in my divorce was custody of the Cub Cadet riding lawn mower. (He got the house with the huge yard; what could I POSSIBLY need a riding mower for?!?)
    Mowing the lawn used to be my respite from the Game of Life. I plopped my large ass on the wide seat and was gone — both literally and mentally — for nearly three hours. I loved it.
    I now have a hateful rental yard that came with the rental house. While it does have a lovely collection of lilac bushes, peonies, and two brave primroses (a rarity around here, I\’m told, but what the hell do I know? I was 0-for-4 on your pics yesterday!), it also has many lumps and bumps and stumps that are…well, just ugly.
    Husband believes the perfect lawn is a blend of cement and wildflowers; I believe the perfect lawn is one that I own, and may do with as I please. If that includes a colossal patch of wildflowers — and storing the antiquated push-mower for the rest of my life — then so be it.
    I loved this post. If I lived near you, I\’d be in line with Prodigal Son and Stepson, urging D to "hurry up, already. It\’s MY turn!"
    Speaking of mowing, we\’d better do that this weekend. Either that or bale it.


  3. Perhaps the Prod. Son can while away the lazy hours by taking a mattock to the stumps, rather than just marking them?   I envy you the big yard.  I am stuck in apartment hell while at my house a thousand miles away my brother is enjoying the mowing of my 2+ acre lawn (although when you subract the little woods and ponds, it is less).  Anyway you now know the secret of motivating the men.  Things with motors!


  4. Isn\’t there some sort of John Deere washing machine they could come out with so the prodigal and step-daughter would never get a chance to wash clothes? 
    (3 days to cut the grass?  I have a 80 degree hill with mondo grass that I\’ve been working on for 2 months.  Sigh).


  5. What fun….We had one as kids and had an acre to mow.  For years we fought over who would get tho cut the grass and who had to do the trim work and then who had to take the scissor type tool and cut along the house and close to trees, etc.  It was a fun time and I don\’t think we ever did much damage.


  6. Lawn tractors?! Just follow my example and concrete/stone chip/ tree bark the whole affair. MUCH easier.
     Oh and always go Massey Ferguson for your tractors, never crappy John Deere… Craig xxx


  7. Congrats on the purchase . I have / had 3 lawn tractors here until about 3 weeks ago . I filled my trailer with them one day and brought them to a friends who offered just enough $ to make it interesting . Interestingly enough he hasn\’t paid me ….Lawn tractors are cool though and you couldn\’t give me a John Deere. They are all made at the same plant but are painted snot green and yellow . No kidding .
    The rolling frames are all B&S or Tecumseh (ewwwww)  powered and then hung with the manufacturers body panels. There and you thought I just another pretty face….


  8. @Sal
    Thanks Sal! I don\’t know about fine but I definitely had a busy weekend. The yard always beckons and as summer is on the way we\’ve started into the annual "Stag and Doe" season which resulted in me watching a number of drunk people eat goldfish Saturday evening. I certainly hope your weekend held much less gruesome entertainments.
    @Kay the Mower Maid
    If the weather has been as rainy down there as it\’s been up here I\’m thinking that it may be too late to bale your yard and we just might have to send out a search party!;P
    I love the Prodigal but he\’s not the most graceful of children (unless he happens to be on skates oddly enough). I don\’t know that anything large and heavy meant for crushing wouldn\’t endanger any of his appendages. When you add the Stepson into the mix…well the combination just might end in death, or disfigurement in the least trying of circumstances!
    I don\’t know if anyone else who lives at my house knows how clothes that have been tossed in the laundry hamper mysteriously appear clean and wrinkle free in their closets and drawers. Alas if John Deere made a laundry machine I\’m sure it would be hideously out-priced and obsolete in less than a year.
     80 degree hill eh…can I suggest a goat?…lawn control and fertilizer all in one complete package. ;D
    When I was growing up cutting the lawn was my brother\’s job and I can\’t say I ever envied him. You do make it sound fun though. I\’ve been relegated to the grunt work of pushing the mower around the trees and garden beds. It\’s not glamorous but at least I know that no one is going to accidentally shear my flowers\’ heads off.
    Good Lord…around here that Massey Ferguson comment would cause an uproar. While your concrete, stone chip, bark thing might be much easier it would never feed my soul the way my weedy, grassy, bug filled garden does. Right now the lilacs are in bloom, the first of the irises have opened and there\’s Lily of The Valley everywhere. The poppies look like big fat green bugs, ready to burst and the lupins are like church spires pointing purple and pink fingers upwards to heaven. The shasta daisies are beginning to bloom and there is still trillium in the beds. The flox is up  and the white tulips are lingering on. In the shaded rock garden the chicks and hens are nestled under the ferns and everywhere the bees are going about their business. The pines smell so sweet they should be crowned with golden blossoms. Concrete and bark chips?…LOL Not for me!
    I wonder if men feel the same or if they approach that act of creation in another way. =*}
    Ugh! Do not mention Tecumseh around here…our push-mower bears that cursed insignia…experience is a difficult teacher but oh well live and learn.
    I am glad we got the lawn tractor, for reasons other than the "fun" value. I was afraid I was going to see the hubby drop dead in the summer heat or have CAS come take the Prodigal away for subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment with a push-mower. I, myself, have no lawn tractor allegiance so the purchase of a Craftsman didn\’t bother me at all. I hate to sound infernally feminine but I also don\’t care that it has a 22hp motor or a 42" mowing radius…I\’m just happy that it does the job. Now that we\’ve had it for a month or so I think everybody else is okay with the purchase as well.
    I\’m just wondering though why you would have THREE lawn tractors? Are you an attractor of miscellaneous objects… with a pretty face. =) If so can you find me a 12" by 14" cast iron grate for my kitchen heating duct (I can not for the life of me find one anywhere!!!)? If your friend doesn\’t pay you for your lawn tractors (why did he want three lawn tractors?) will you have to go repossess your "non John Deere" booty?


  9. I have sooo wanted to buy a riding mower… since I\’ve been living on my lovely 1.5 acres… oh, about 10 years now.  I could have put one on lay a way at Wally World ages ago, and should have, but noooo… I just pay the guy down the street to come and do it.  He only charges $50 each time, and he cuts it about once every three weeks or so… yup… could have bought a couple of those babies by now!  Sigh.


  10. Lorna, you can brag about your acres and acres, Ill just stick with my 10 foot by 8. Dont forget you live in rural Canada and I live in inner city England… fancy a trade? Im not at all jealous!!
     P.S. Massey Ferguson RULE!! Craig xxx


  11. Living in SoCal for so many years got me spoiled on postage stamp sized yards and a half hour a week "primp and preen" to shut up the homeowners association.  Day one in our new home dawned with the realization that the mustache trimmer I called a lawnmower would no longer suffice.  Lessons learned… 1) John Deere\’s are expensive, 2) You can get one ANYWHERE around here… even grocery stores, 3) The Sears guy is an idiot (which is unfortunate because I\’m a Craftsman loyalist), 4) My very expensive John Deere is very impressive so far, 5) My yard is 1.5 ridiculously STEEP acres of sidehill which my very expensive John Deere nearly rolls over on each time I mow, 6) I am now planting almost all of my yard with native bushes and making a trail which will all but eliminate the need for my new John Deere, 7) I\’m an idiot…


  12. L,
    This read was simply delightful.  I thoroughly enjoyed the story, mental images and the out-loud laugh I got after the big "tip over".  🙂
    So "D" sure seems to like his new toy.  Perhaps the way to a man\’s heart is not through his stomach after all…
    I missed ya, so I\’m stopping by for a hello before heading off to work.  Have an awesome day/week!


  13. @Simon
    You have been in my thoughts Simon. I do check in once in a while but I haven\’t had as much time to visit and blog walk lately (life has been a bit bumpy, sigh, but it is like that isn\’t it?). I hope all is well with you and that you aren\’t working too hard. =)
    "D" does love his tractor but he is willing to leave it when the dinner bell rings so I think the stomach route is still the "main thoroughfare" ;P
    Take care,
    Lol… Was I preaching the garden sermon a little too loud? My apologies Craig I know I do get a bit carried away and not everyone likes to muck about in the dirt. Perhaps I can even it out by confessing that my ankles are more than just a little mosquito bitten at the moment. I guess all pleasures come with a price , big, small or in my case rather itchy! ;D
    Thanks for stopping by:)
    Having just moved into my rural house a year and a half ago I can tell you the change in environment is a huge learning experience. You are definitely not an idiot! You might be able to use the John Deere for something else…how about tractor jousting? Now THERE\’S a sport for kings!


  14. what a great story.  a lawn tractor is one thing i have never \’driven\’.  all i can think of is a King of the Hill inspired race, LOL what a great cartoon.. definately dont want to hit a stump with that thing, clearance is an issue and i doubt it comes with skid plates..!
    i love an old property, large or small.  i am sure if i were ever in your vicinity, i would be content to just sit and drink in… no alcohol involved 😉


  15. @Jules
    If you\’re ever heading out this way let me know. I\’ll put a drink in the cup holder on the lawn tractor for you and you can head out while the hubby is snoozing.


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