While I was mowing the lawn a few years ago, oil started spurting out all over (from the mower, not me). Investigation revealed the oil did not come from an opening oil should come out of. No, it was a brand new opening.
Going back still another year, while I pushed that that very same mower, the handle suddenly dissolved into numerous pieces. They scattered across the lawn in a pattern that spelled out “Ha!” I found what I thought was one of those pieces still on the mower deck, and picked it up. The pattern of that bolt, which — it turned out — was actually from the engine, is imprinted to this day on the palm of my hand.
No connection could be established between that red-hot doohickey and the auto-dismembering handle, but what are the odds?
The lawn mower before that lost its life when I pulled the handle to start it, but failed to notice the rope didn’t retreat back into the machine, where it belonged. Then I ran over the rope. It wasn’t pretty. My father eventually took that mower to his Home for Mistreated Machines (established in my honor), where it happily whacked away for years more, without a care. (In other words, without me.)
The one before that is the Infamous Exploding Lawnmower, which caused the first ever Level One Hazardous Material Emergency in the history of Noble County, and was featured on both CNN and “The Simpson’s”. The parts that could be located are on display in the Smithsonian, after being borrowed by an investigation team from the History Channel program, “Engineering Disasters”.
What I’m saying is, I have a history.
After that most recent lawn mower sacrificed its lifeblood (still visible in a dead patch of grass that spells out “help me”), a friend let me borrow his. I know – dumb friend!
Ironically, the mower ran just fine under my borrowship. It was a freakin’ miracle.
Then my friend gave me the mower, maybe assuming it was tainted. He wasn’t wrong.
My mowers never screw up the same way twice. One time it’s the starter rope; another time a cracked head (not unlike the one I got from a low hanging branch); then it’ll be sheets of flame and a towering mushroom cloud.
So I’m mowing the lawn the day after the mower officially became mine, and it stops. Just stops, after once around the lawn. I manage to get it started. Once around, it stops again. After some effort, including changing the gas, oil and sparkplug, and some imaginative praying, I get it going again. Once around, it stops.
Changing fluids is the extent of my capabilities. Yes, I can change the sparkplug, but that task once led to me regaining consciousness on top of the neighbor’s car. But eventually, a realization hit me:
When the mower leaned toward the right, it kept running. When it leaned toward the left, it stopped. Every time.
I had a conservative lawn mower.
Luckily, very little of my lawn is level; in fact, there’s every indication the entire property is sliding downhill. The US Geological Service estimated that within the next hundred years my house will be west of the old car wash on the next block, which is bad because right now it’s east of the car wash. The same team that handled the Leaning Tower of Pizza is working on the problem.
But my lawn can’t wait a hundred years, so my solution was simple: Keep the mower’s right side pointed downhill at all times.
I gotta tell you, that’s nowhere near as easy as I thought it might be:
* Sooner or later, you’ve got to turn around. Otherwise, the neighbors will get annoyed.
* When you back up, you can’t watch both the mower and the dog droppings.
* Slipping while pulling a lawnmower toward you is the closest thing you can get to an instant of sheer terror without being in a plane crash.
* Pulling a lawn mower toward you is dumb.
This was a genius way to torture me. I possessed a mower that was perfectly capable of mowing, as long as it’s tilted in one direction. Why replace it? That’s money I could use for other things, like utility bills, food, or crutches. Besides, this is Indiana – I’m surprised there aren’t more right leaning lawn mowers. So I spent the next few years wearing out one side of my shoes.
Sometimes I think my lawn can’t slide away soon enough.