When I was a kid, things didn’t break as often as they do now. If you bought something at Sears Lawn and Garden, you needed to run over it with an 18-wheeler to render it nonfunctional.
(Insert the sound of Tim Allen here)
Such used to be the case with lawn sprinklers. Made of steel or cast iron, the lawn sprinklers of the 50s and 60s were solid for watering your yard, and for making you dance when you stepped on one of them while barefoot in the dark.
There were the ones I called “The Whirligigs.” They sat in one spot, but the holes that let the water out were staggered, so the water appeared to be making a curved, spinning design in the air.
If your grandmother didn’t have that one, she likely had the one I call, “The Tennis Match.” It also sat in one place, but a long bar went back and forth, dropping a line of water evenly as it went.
Most men liked “The Single Spout.” It sat atop a tall spike and a spring mechanism tapped itself evenly in a circle for a while in one direction, and then suddenly and quickly reversed course. I liked it because it sounded like a machine gun during the last part. I think the men liked it because they got to stab the ground with it, turn it on, and then go back inside the house for a beer.
All of this came to mind recently when I needed a new sprinkler for my vegetable garden. Our old, yellow plastic and metal (Tennis Match) model came up missing. After a futile search effort, I asked my wife to pick up a new one while she was in town.
It lasted two days.
Two, lousy days.
I went out on the patio to turn it off, and noticed that one side of the garden was wet and happy, while the other side appeared to be just as I left it at the start – completely dry.
Not wanting to appear to show favoritism to the corn over the potatoes, I walked into the garden thinking that the sprinkler had fallen over and I’d just have to set it upright.
Nope. It was broken. No 18-wheeler needed. It was a cheap piece of junk.
Frustrated with this local home and garden store purchase, I returned it to the store for a refund then went to search online for an old one. One like I used to step on barefooted in the dark.
That’s what we needed. An old steel or cast iron whirligig or a tennis match.
So, to the Internet auction site I went.
I typed in, “antique sprinklers.” Tons of them came up. Only, they had too many zeroes on the prices.
Seriously, I was shocked. I came across a metal tennis match that was about 60 years old and they wanted $322. Plus shipping. The whirligigs started at $55.
I didn’t want to make a car payment I just wanted a sprinkler that wouldn’t break.
My kids say I’m cheap. If so, I’m no different than my dad. He thought a new car shouldn’t cost more than $10,000 until the day he died. I used to tell him that cars hadn’t been that price since the 70s.
Well, I think that the old sprinkler I want should still be $5. I used to see them at garage sales back in the 80s for .25 or .50 cents.
The $10 or $15 I want to pay? All that gets you today is the piece of junk we bought that lasted two days.
So, I compromised. I found a new one with a metal base and plastic bar (tennis match) that had good reviews, and was closer to $20. It should be here any day now.
If this one breaks, I’m using some of my kid’s’ inheritance and buying that $322, plus shipping sprinkler I found.
Then, I’ll set it up, turn it on, and go back in the house. I need a beer.
©2020 John Moore
John’s books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on Amazon and on John’s website at TheCountryWriter.com. His weekly John G. Moore Podcast appears on Spotify and iTunes.