The Mower vs The Pony

Bought a lawn mower today, the ride around kind.  This seems like a mundane thing to talk about, or write about, but don’t be deceived.  The topic is an iceberg, with seven-tenths of the meaning submerged and threatening to rip a hole in your hull.

When I was a kid in Queens, we had a lawn that, if you fell down, you’d be on the other side.  I used a push mower, accent on the word ‘push’.  No gas, no oil, no steering wheel.  I was very happy with it because Dennis the Menace used one just like it.  I would put my little chest against the cross bar, dig my feet in and push until it moved. Usually, just moments before I collapsed from exhaustion, the lawn was finished.

A modern lawn mower is, essentially, a helicopter blade attached to an internal combustion engine. That fact in itself has certain ramifications.  It uses gasoline and oil, two products very much on the minds of budget conscious people these days.  It blows smoke, and it makes a lot of noise, thus polluting the environment in two ways.  It has a battery, a spark plug, wires, a piston, tires, headlights, a starter motor, a carburetor, a muffler, a universal joint, a brake, a steering mechanism and a transmission.  Oh, and a cup holder.  Next years model will have a microwave, a GPS and a nuclear reactor.

(The one I used as a kid had three blades arranged in a wheeled housing and a ‘T’ bar to push it with.)

The Mower

This one even has a nickname; The Pony. It is one step down from The Bronco, and from there one can move up to The Horse, The Colt, and The Mustang. The Mustang gives you enough power to mow Iowa, had you the will and motivation.

The Pony

(I called the one I used in Queens ‘The Mower’.)

If I choose, I can attach a mulcher, a grass catcher, a fender guard, a trailer, even a snowplow.

(With my old one, I would sometimes tie a string to the handle, just for the pure hell of it).

I can turn on a dime, back up, adjust the seat, adjust the level of the blade, shift gears and adjust the throttle.

(With my old one, I could push, pull, stop, and collapse on it.)

But despite the word ‘Curmudgeon’ in the title, this isn’t a nostalgia piece.  It isn’t a diatribe on how wonderful things were in the good old days when ‘goils were goils and men were men’.  I would not use a push mower again even if my cardiovascular system would permit it. That was then, this is now, and Andy Rooney is full of it.  This is really all about responsibility and membership.

With ‘The Mower’ I could squeeze a little 3 in 1 oil in the spring, maybe run a file over the blades, and she was ready to go.  In the fall, I could lean it in a corner of the garage and then go play touch football.  The Pony, of course, is a different story.

It gets filled in the spring with fresh, unleaded gas, and oil calculated to operate efficiently in my temperature zone.  The battery, which was stored in a warm, dry area for the winter, is installed, being careful to look for rust or pitted marks on the terminals.  Check the tires, fill as necessary. Check the spark plug for signs of wear and re-connect.  Check the mower blade, and sharpen if necessary.  In the fall, empty the oil and gas tank, (find some place to safely dispose of the gas and oil) remove and store the battery, disconnect the spark plug.  And having done all that, there is still a formidable list of things that can go wrong; rust, flat tires, steering linkage, fouled carburetor, brakes, electrical shorts, starter system, dead battery, engine overheating, acne, dandruff, chaffing, halitosis, hoof and mouth disease, the list goes on and on and on.

So much for responsibility.

The plus side of all of this is automatic and permanent membership in a secret club.  The Suburban Homeowners Club.  Members recognize each other at the hardware store easily by their drawn and haggard look, the dirt under the fingernails and the grass stains on their worn jeans.  The secret handshake looks a lot like reaching for your wallet, or, the variation of swiping your credit card.  I am a proud member, and will sit tall on my Pony this spring, waving at my neighbors, and making the world safe for dandelions.

And just for the heck of it, here is a link to a great old instrumental called “The Horse“… enjoy.

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