Cutting Out

If I ever find a bottle with a genie in it, I’m using all three wishes to have someone else mow my yard.

I know, you’re thinking that I should use one of my three wishes for a permanent genie lawn boy and the other two for a winning lottery ticket and TV news with no arguing. But, I’m fairly certain that even an eternal genie would tire of mowing my yard. It’s fairly large.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to run the mower. Now, I feel as if the minute I turn my back, the grass sticks its tongue out at me and grows an inch.

My dad bought a reel mower when I was about nine. Notice I didn’t say a real mower, I said a reel mower.

A reel mower is the old style that has no engine, just four blades that spin when the wheels turn. The mower was insanely hard to push, and honestly, I have no idea why he bought it. He had a push mower with a Briggs and Stratton engine on it.

But, I’d get out in the yard on Beech Street and push that reel mower until sweat ran down into my eyes and my heart pounded.

On Leave it To Beaver, all the boys seemed to cut the yard with ease in about five minutes with a reel mower. Later, I met Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver Cleaver, but I forgot to ask him how they made those reel mowers look so easy.

Like a lot of teen boys in the early and mid-70s, I started a lawn business. Well, sort of. My mom or dad would come home and tell me that I had a new lawn to mow. Eventually, that turned into a bunch of yards that I was mowing.

Almost always the customer was a widow or widower. My grandfather (my dad’s father) worked on gasoline lawnmowers, so there was never a shortage of combustion engine grass cutters. Thankfully, he had no use for reel mowers.

I’d put a quarter in my pocket to fill up my gas can at the 7-11, then, with a rope, I’d hook the lawnmower handles to my bicycle seat and, with the gas can in one hand and the bike handle in the other, I’d drag the mower across town to my destination.

There were no bicycle helmets, knee pads, or flashing bike lights back then. And you know what? Somehow, we managed to survive. Today, if someone saw a kid pedaling a purple Murray Bicycle, carrying a can of gasoline, and dragging a lawnmower down the highway, they’d call the cops and have the parents taken to the pokey.

I had a number of memorable lawn customers. There was a man whose name I no longer remember, but that’s OK, because he could never remember mine. Let’s call him “Mr. X.”

He lived in a small apartment that was part of a row of cookie cutter duplexes. They each had a large front yard and virtually no back yard. Mr. X would sit on his front porch and sip his drink while I cut his grass. I always wondered what he was thinking and why he didn’t have something else to do. But, he seemed perfectly content to watch me.

Mrs. Bone (that was her real name) was another customer. Nice lady, but she had a plant, flower, and bush addiction. Every time I’d show up, she would have added more stuff to her yard. I mowed her place for a couple of years and by the end, it was like mowing an obstacle course.

If the Olympics had offered lawn competition, I could have at least taken the silver medal.

My mom’s dad didn’t work on mowers, but he always had the newest and latest model and he knew how to do the maintenance. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about “barn finds,” where someone discovers a pristine car or truck in a barn or garage after someone has passed? That would have been my mom’s dad, except instead of someone uncovering a glistening vintage Corvette, it would have been a Snapper riding mower.

My mom’s dad also had a big heart. If someone needed help with their yard because they were older and couldn’t get around very well or they were disabled, my grandfather would call me to come over and we’d head out to mow their yard. That was the first time I ever operated a riding mower. It was also where I learned how a riding mower and kindness could work some magic for older folk.

You have lots of different types of lawnmowers to pick from these days: Zero turns, rechargeable battery push mowers, and the old reel mowers are still around. But even so, I feel like I’m ready to pass the Olympic mowing torch to a younger mower.

I finally figured out why Mr. X was happy to sit on his front porch, sip his drink, and watch some kid mow his yard.

©2017 John Moore
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