In June 27 Issue Russell County NewsBy Wade Daffron, Columnist
It got worse, you know.
There are times when I get WAY out there.
Sometimes I think I do it on purpose-maybe just to see if anyone is paying attention.
Do you really think I believe there are aliens disguised as deer living in my backyard?
There’s not. (Or at least that’s what they told me to say while pointing a microscopic, ultra-violet, Stage 15, nuclear, intoxicator ray at my head.)
I guess I was trying to make light of the bizarre incidents occurring as I attempted to get my yard and adjacent field mowed.
Never in a million years did I expect someone to angrily call the newspaper office and fume over such nonsense.
A reader didn’t like my column?
Heck, I don’t like my column, either.
Anyway, I decided to take a conventional approach to my problem.
I had a rare, day off last week, and went lawn mower shopping.
No, I didn’t go to one of those "super stores" or major chain stores. Can’t afford those.
I listened to the local, call-in radio shows, hit the pawn shops, and made the rounds among the area traders.
I figured with the cash equivalent of one week’s work, and a sharp eye, I could find a good, used riding mower.
(This is the part of the story where my co-worker, Russell Springs Branch Librarian Mildred Lawson, shakes her head and says, "I told you not to buy some old, used mower!")
Me, I like to think I’m fairly resourceful, and could find something in the $150 range.
OK, OK, everybody stop laughing now.
When I told someone what I was willing to spend, I was informed I "couldn’t even get a half-way decent push mower" for that amount.
Seems to me I remember seeing riding mowers for sale all the time for that price, but that was probably 10-12 years ago, come to think of it.
I kept searching.
I’d find a nice looking mower…$800.
Shoot! My car ain’t worth that!
Saw a couple for around $500.
What were they made of…gold?
One for $350 seemed interesting, but when I tried it out, (after it finally started), it felt like I was riding an out-of-control, mechanical bull that was about to self-destruct at any moment.
There was also all these decisions to make
What horsepower motor? 14.5? 15? 18? 19?
What size cut? 42"? 44"? 50"?
And every mower had some kind of "minor problem."
It was coming down to a process of elimination.
Finally, a snazzy, red number caught my eye.
Didn’t seem too bad. Looked a little rough, but so do I.
I liked the fact it had a "twin," 14.5 horsepower, "industrial/commercial" motor.
The twin-motor harkened back to my "biker days," and the price…$250.
I tried it out in my "Oh yeah, I know all about lawn mowers" mode.
Trying to impress the seller, I said things like, "Yeah, these wheels here, they help the mower roll," and "Those long, sharp, pieces of metal under the deck are the blades, and they’re good for cutting grass, " or the most impressive line of lawn mower knowledge, "I was looking at new mowers, but heck, MTD makes them all nowadays, so one’s just the same as another."
The mower I tried seemed to do alright.
I went back a second time, and it still seemed OK.
Then, I called in "The Big Guns"-my son, Myles.
Of course, I had to make an "appointment" with him, because as part of the grounds crew at the country club, he works from daylight til dark.
I spoke to him over the phone about the mower I found, and asked his advice.
I’m pretty sure he was rolling his eyes as I described it to him, and he asked me an important question.
"Dad, if you do get this mower…how are you gonna get it home?"
"Alright," he said, "tell you what. I’ll go look at it, and if it seems like it’s a good one, I’ll get a trailer and haul it to the house."
That’s my boy!
Later than day, he came ambling into the house-still in his work clothes.
"Your mower is here," he said. "But man, it was an uh…adventure getting it here."
Myles explained he drove pretty much across the county to get a trailer, but when he looked at the trailer, it had a different sized hitch compared to the ball on his truck.
He found another trailer with the right-sized hitch, but it was even farther way.
(And a big THANK YOU to Matt Gosser for the favor! He owns a lawn care service, and loaned us a trailer so we could pick up a lawn mower for our own use. Is that a nice guy, or what?)
I offered to help Myles unload the mower, but he brushed me aside.
"Let me get it, old man," he said.
"Did you say, ‘old man?‘ " I asked.
"Well, I mean, you know, I do this stuff all the time at work," Myles responded sheepishly.
He started the mower, drove it a few feet, then stopped, and shut it off.
"What?" I asked.
He paced around the mower-crouching occasionally to look at it in detail-then he got down on the ground, and slowly raked his hand across a patch of grass he had cut.
"Cuts good," he said under his breath.
Rocking back and forth on his heels, he made a series of "old man on the toilet" faces, arched his back, and sighed.
"WHAT?!" I squealed.
He stroked his stubbly chin, and looked toward the sky like an Indian Warrior standing on a cliff overlooking some vast valley.
"I reckon’ it’ll do," he said.
GREAT! An endorsement!
The next day, I began mowing the jungle, uh…YARD.
After about an hour, the mower acted like it was running rough, then slowed to almost a crawl.
I managed to get it the carport, and noticed it was out of gas.
Walking in the house, I was met by my wife, Renee’.
"Why’d you quit mowing?" she asked. "Is that mower torn up already?"
No, no, I explained, just out of gas, I said.
"There’s a gas can on the carport," she said.
I had to explain to her it had "two cycle" mixture in it (for a weed eater), and that can couldn’t be used for regular gas.
"Yes it can," she said, "just empty that stuff out and get regular gas in it."
No-can-do, I said, it just didn’t work that way.
"Well, then rinse it out with water," she said.
"You DEFINETLY can’t do that," I explained, because if water gets mixed with gas, the mower won’t run at all.
I convinced (begged) her to go buy a cheap gas can and get some gas so I could finish mowing.
"So, did you have to build the gas can yourself, or extract the fossil fuel from the deep earth and refine it?" I queried in a sarcastic way.
Not a good move.
Nearly in tears, she told how she had "looked everywhere" for a gas can, couldn’t find one, but someone had mercy on her and sold her a used one.
"After all that, I could only scratch up a couple of dollars," she said, "and that didn’t even get a gallon of gas."
"No, no," I protested, "it only takes $5 or $6 to mow the whole yard," I said, "But wait, the last time I mowed the whole yard was like, 10 or 12 years ago."
Put the gas in, mowed for about 20 minutes, and the mower seemed like it was "starving" for fuel.
Back to the carport.
Called Myles again, and late than night, with only a small flash light, and the light from a cell phone, he cleaned the fuel filter, and the mower seemed to be OK.
"Wow, Myles, thanks," I said, "I am impressed. How do you know so much about this stuff? I should be teaching you things like this."
"Well, dad," he drawled in all seriousness, "you really don’t, you know, know too much mechanical stuff, and when you’ve been around as long as me, and seen all I’ve seen, you just, you know, learn from experience."
"Uh, Myles?" I said. "How old are you?"
"Yeah, I reckon’ I’m around 17. Almost 18, though."
The next day, the mower simply, positively, undeniably, would not start.
And seasoned, Master Mechanic Myles was on his was out-of-state.
Every time I turned the key, all I could hear was a "click," and Mildred Lawson saying, "I told you not to buy some old, used mower!"
We managed to borrow another mower, and after using it for about half an hour, it ran out of gas.
I walked in the house to find Renee’ shooting me a "Oh no, you didn’t!" look.
"Did you tear that mower up, too?" she asked.
"Uh, no, just out of gas," I said.
"So?" she said. "Go get some."
I explained to her I couldn’t because the gas can (the used one) she had searched the county over for was missing.
"Are you sure?" she asked. "You didn’t run over it or something, did you?
"WHAT?" I blasted. "NO! I think I would know if I ran over a gas can. The explosion, or trail of fire behind me probably would have got my attention, don’t you think?"
"Well, I don’t know what you did with it," she said.
The day before, I had, put the gas can in the back of Myles’ truck.
Since Myles was going to be gone, someone borrowed his truck, removed the gas can, and forgot to put it back in the truck before they returned it.
Time for the score:
One unmowed yard, one broken lawn mower, one borrowed lawn mower, zero cans to put gas into borrowed mower to finish the unmowed yard.
Renee’ once again enlisted sympathy and someone at a gas station gave her a jug (yeah, that a great opportunity for a joke) to get a "splash" of gas in.
We did get the yard mowed.
Oh, our yard looks like a barber’s floor with clumps of grass scattered about like the aftermath of a hippie getting a crew cut, but it’s done…for this week.
The problem now is we still have one broken mower (which Myles is now working on), and perhaps worse than that, we are missing a cat.
So, if you see me doing a rain dance in the front yard, I hope you’ll understand.