The Green Dream Machine
If you mow more than one acre of grass at your home, you’re a recreational lawn mowist. Why is one acre the limit? Because I mow one acre, which makes anyone mowing more than me a fanatic.
If you live anywhere in rural America—at least east of the Mississippi—you know what I’m talking about. There are those homeowners who jump on their riding lawn tractors as soon as the snow thaws in spring and don’t get off again until Christmas. And then only reluctantly. You know they love mowing grass, but they complain about it constantly. Just yesterday I overheard a guy talking at the hardware store.
“Yep,” he said proudly, his thumbs in his belt loops, “that grass is growin’ so fast I can’t keep up with it. Mowed just three days ago, spent four hours, gotta do it again when I get home.”
And then there are those among us who intentionally fertilize their lawns (pet droppings don’t count here, folks), which makes the grass grow at twice the normal rate. Did they ever think that maybe if they didn’t fertilize and didn’t mow the equivalent acreage of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck that they just might be able to keep up with their lawn? No doubt, if you asked that question of those people who fertilize you’d get a blank, unblinking stare.
And recreational lawn mowists have a definite pecking order. Those with green-colored machines are at the top of the food chain, those with red machines in the middle, and those with yellow mowers near the end. But those with multi-colored machines are definitely the bottom feeders. They don’t even buy their multicolored machines at mower dealerships. Instead (gasp), they buy them off the front sidewalks of discount stores. Or worse yet, they buy them used from someone they don’t even know!
These multicolored machines work for about a week, at which time they die abruptly somewhere in your front yard, never to move again. People then try and convince their neighbors that these mowers are actually lawn ornaments. But no one believes it, even when the woman of the house eventually plants petunias around the dead mower.
I hate to admit it, but I owned a multicolored machine for years and it mowed our lawn just fine. However, I had always dreamed of owning a green machine and saved my shekels diligently for that day. But once I had the money saved, my wife wouldn’t let me spend it.
“That’s just too much to pay for a lawn mower,” she said.
“Lawn tractor,” I corrected her.
“Whatever…it’s too much!”
But I finally got a lucky “brake” in the situation. It all began one sunny, summer afternoon when my wife was mowing the steep hill in our front yard that she laughingly refers to as “the cliff.” Laughingly, I should say, until the brakes on our old, multicolored riding mower gave way and she took a white-knuckled ride down “the cliff.”
She’s a level-headed woman—a registered nurse by trade, trained to handle emergencies—so when the brakes on the mower let go, she had the presence of mind during her wild ride to reach down and turn off the ignition key, which switched off the engine. That, in turn, stopped the whirring mower blades, which prevented the mower from turning our cabbage plants into cole slaw when she and the machine ended up in the middle of our garden.
“You all right…?” I asked, as she stomped back into the house.
“Fine!” she said, “But your mower is in the middle of the garden!”
“What’s it doing there?” I asked.
“Rusting, for all I care. Buy a new one!”
“Can I buy a green one?”
“I don’t care what color you buy! This isn’t a fashion show…”
Oh, but yes it is, I thought.
The next morning, I was waiting at the green-machine dealership when it opened. I hoped the salesman didn’t notice how eager I was to buy one of his new mowers, but my whistling and skipping across the parking lot may have given me away.
The salesman was the worst kind—the kindly, grandfatherly type. He shook my hand warmly, placed his arm around my shoulders, and spent the next two hours explaining horsepower, cut widths, and the advantages of hydrostatic drive versus gears. I, in turn, asked penetrating questions from time to time such as, “If I buy a green machine, do I get a free hat?”
Needless to say, by late morning I was the proud owner of my first green machine. I had arrived. I had finally elevated my mowing status from a mere trimmer of grass to “lawn god.”
My gleaming, new green machine was delivered the very next day. I hardly slept the night before. I expected the same grandfatherly salesman to make the delivery, but instead an acne-faced teenager with pink streaks in his hair and a nose ring pulled into my driveway. He rolled my new green machine down off the delivery truck, and none too gently, I might add.
Humbly, I walked toward the teenager, certain he would perform some sort of ceremony or ritual. I bowed my head, awaiting to be crowned with my free hat. What I got instead was the mower’s instruction manual.
“Read this, dude,” he said, slapping the manual into my hand, and got back into his truck to leave.
“Hey, wait a minute…” I blurted out. “What about my free hat?”
He looked bored as he slipped a pair of headphones over his ears. “Guess I forgot it,” he said. “We’ll send ya one in the mail, dude.” With that, he floored the truck, which spun the rear tires, which threw gravel from my driveway into my lawn. So much for a life-changing moment.
But lawn gods are unaffected by such things, and I proudly mounted my new steed, prepared to take the first spin around the lawn. But looking down, I discovered that the teenager had not only forgotten my new hat, he’d also forgotten to leave me the keys to my new green machine.
My bride of 38 years had been watching all of this while seated on our front porch swing just a few yards away. “Nice lawn ornament you have there,” she grinned.
I eventually received a set of keys from the dealership, and spent the next several years joyfully mowing my lawn every third day, spring thaw through Christmas. I even read the mower’s instruction manual—cover to cover, twice each year—and was beginning to contemplate the nuances of lawn fertilization. But then it happened, right in the middle of mowing the front yard.
Exactly 15 minutes after the extended warranty elapsed, the green machine quit. And quit may not quite be an accurate description. Actually, the mower stopped, shuddered, belched a large cloud of blue smoke, and died. Never to start again.
No amount of me beating the steering wheel and repeating words that you wouldn’t likely hear in Sunday school could revive it. My wife watched this shameful display of manhood for several minutes before coming outside, taking me gently by the hand, and leading me, sobbing, back into the house.
She then went back to the green machine and, humming as she worked, planted an entire flat of petunias around it.