# # LawnBoy

Brother, I Can See Your Skull.

Brother, I Can See Your Skull. - The Coreyshead Blog


When I first moved into this duplex and was told that I’d have to mow the lawn or pay an exorbitant fee to have it mowed by the landlord (not to mention earn his displeasure), I blanched.

The last lawnmower I owned is a decade gone from my life, and the only tool I’ve been using to coif the hardscrabble, semi-feral patches of flora I’ve since been entrusted to manage is a weed-whacker, now left in the possession of my erstwhile wife. Yet here I am, staring at a yard. A regulation, turfed yard.

It’s not as if I am afraid or incapable of mowing lawns. I was raised mowing and edging an acre and a half of grass every summer, all summer long and, though it wasn’t my favorite of tasks, I am more than up to it. No, the fear was, with my limited income, what tool could I afford?

Then it hit me: of course! A push reel mower, the likes of which one can envision Wally Cleaver shoving about his monochromatic lawn. You know: no gas, simple construction, quiet – a form of exercise and environmentally conscious. Yes!

So I went out and hit all the big-box lawn and garden shops in search of said tool, discovering that they aren’t so easy to find anymore, at least not the simple type I had in mind.

Each store carried one (1) model but they were always new-fangled, heavy, and expensive with all these unnecessary wheels, gears, and attachments. All I wanted was a handle and two wheels with a reel blade suspended between them. Was that so much to ask?


I finally found and settled on a $100 model with four wheels and, as the season was over, placed the unopened box in my garage for the duration and forgot about it.

Over these last few weeks I have watched, with an equal sense of joy and dismay, the weather clear and brighten while the grass outside ever lengthened. Once the latter reached past the sensible cutting length, I girded my gardening loins and cracked the seal on my Scotts Classic 20″.

I scan the manual cursorily. Basic assembly of the unit is easy enough and, once together, the mower rolls forward on the concrete with an easy and purposeful whir. Rolling out into the bright and chirpy spring sunshine, my mind swells with pride and accomplishment. I am doing the right thing for both my soft, pasty body and the lawn with this push mower. I am a good man. I can write a blog post about it; this is going to be fun!

You know you’ve gone all fat and spoiled when the notion of physical labor gains a sense of the romantic …

I eye the lawn and the height settings on my mower. Would it be best to approach it a layer at a time or should I just drop the bar and plow through? My mind hearkens back to my power mower days and, feeling the confidence of my calves, I lower the blades to about 6″ below the yard’s present peak and shove in.

The grass, for the most part, just sort of lays down as I roll over it, then stands back up, jester-like, after I’ve passed. Certainly some of it is lopped off but … maybe if I try setting the blade a bit higher?

No, that doesn’t seem to have much effect, either. Maybe if I try going through it with a bit less enthusiasm? No, speed doesn’t seem to play much of a factor, either except that, the slower I go, the smaller the twigs need to be to jam the damn blade.

I walked the yard prior to mowing it but, as it is surrounded by cedar and pine, I couldn’t pull every stick and, besides, being used to a power-mower’s disdain for such twiggy obstacles, I’d not considered such piffle a concern. Live and learn.

I find that my best bet is to go over a swath of grass a couple times at least and to approach each new swath with my blade half over the cut I’ve made prior and half into the uncut grass. Even with this approach I am leaving mohawks all over the yard and certain patches of a different, hardier grass require numerous passes with the blade and even then remain unrepentant.

By the time I finish my “half” of the yard, I am bathed in sweat and rethinking the romanticism with which I initially approached the task; a push mower puts the “work” back into “yardwork”.

The “two” yards of the duplex I live in are not separated by a fence or demarcation of any real sort; it’s all one, big expanse of grass. At the tail end of last summer, my then neighbor (now moved on) mowed both his side of the yard and my own and so I am determined to do the same.

Plowing ahead, I am about a third done with my neighbor’s lawn when he arrives home.

“Oh,” he says, “heck. I was just gonna do that. I have a … a power mower …” he trails off, his eyes scanning with visible skepticism, the the uneven results of my exertions.

“Aw,” I reply, my ridiculous and sweat-saturated, red bandanna dribbling onto my face, “I don’t mind. Couldn’t exactly stop halfway!”

“Yes, well. I’ll do the next one, okay?”

“Sure! That’s great. We can take turns!” I am feeling expansive, if also a bit trembly.

A thin smile and then he retreats to the cool interior of his home.

What would have taken me less than an hour with a gas mower has stretched to three and I am flagging, unamused. By now the mower is feeling like it weighs around half-a-ton and the sun is melting me like a pat of butter on hot cast-iron. At the last little bit of grass, I am shoving forward with no regard for effect or purpose, just a robotic momentum of intention to have pushed this goddamn thing over every inch of the yard and be done with it!

Rolling it back to the garage I note that the reel is now fighting me, straining against any forward motion even with no grass in its maw. It is not that I’m weaker – at least not this much – the rotation is stiff to the point of inaction.

I put the mower away and pick up the manual, giving it my full attention for the first time and learn that I had the action set wrong and was likely fighting it the whole time.

Three days later it looks as if the lawn has never been touched.

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2 Responses to “LawnBoy”

  1. Roger says:

    A technical writer probably my worked hard on that
    manual and you just ignored it. Shame on you!

  2. Kris Petersen says:

    Some clown in Sacramento was dragged into court

    He shot his lawnmower
    It disobeyed, it wouldn’t start

    Might makes right, it’s the American way!

    They fined him $60 and sent him on his way

    You know, some people don’t take no shit

    Maybe if they did they’d have half a brain left

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