Rita Howell 5/3/13

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 3, 2013

Quality time ahead with new mower

Janet Fay’s front lawn deserves the Pittman Road Yard of the Month Award. I decided to nominate her after I observed her neatly cutting her grass with a push mower.

Now, there are not one but two able-bodied men in her household. And one of them owns a riding mower.
But they can’t mow her yard to suit her.

So she gets behind the push mower with determination that produces a uniform carpet of green.
Observing all of this produced in me a combination of admiration and shame…admiration for her commitment to maintain an attractive yard, shame for myself as the tender spring weeds were nearing knee-high in our yard across the road from hers.

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Our mower died with the final cutting last fall. In fact, I don’t think we ever finished giving the place an end-of-summer trim. (I use the word “we” loosely. Rupert actually mows the two or three acres around our house. Early in our marriage we agreed that I’d clean up the kitchen if he’d mow the yard. The arrangement has worked for 21 years.)

Last September the Cadet gave up the ghost in a sputtering, smoky, noisy gasp.

All winter we kept reminding ourselves that we were going to have to buy a new lawnmower in the spring.

Now while I gladly relinquish the mowing responsibility to Rupert (I’m not as picky as Janet Fay), I was happy to accompany him on shopping expeditions to replace our dead mower. We looked all winter. We considered bargain, end-of-season leftover models. We studied the pros and cons of zero turn radius versus standard. We did not contemplate a push mower.

I appreciated being included in the shopping because, well, sometimes I feel that Rupert has a closer relationship with his lawnmower than with me.

I know some days he spends more time with that riding mower than with me.

He’s had relationships with two riding mowers since we’ve been married. The man does take care of his equipment. He memorizes the owner’s manual and knows the procedures for removing the deck, sharpening the blades, replacing the belts, changing the oil.

The time he spends riding on that mower is, to him, quality time. He puts on that old straw hat and rides around on that mower, solving the problems of the world.

Spring arrived, the yard was a mess, Rupert needed his mowing therapy time and we still had not purchased a new mower.

Rupert had his criteria; I was basing my choice on color: red, yellow or green? The yellow one we’d had for ten years seemed to make Rupert happy, so I was advocating that brand.

My 91-year-old dad, the engineer, weighed in on this decision and seemed to be pulling for a green ZTR (that’s zero turn radius, for you who haven’t been studying this sort of thing).

As our grass grew disgusting shaggy, and I feared Janet Fay might be considering posting a “condemned property” sign in our yard, Rupert finally made a decision.

It’s orange and it turns on a dime.

Purchasing a riding lawnmower in town required borrowing a trailer to convey it ten miles out to our home.

Borrowing a trailer required waking up our friend Tommy Wren on a Saturday morning. Tommy was suffering from the same bug that has afflicted half the county this spring, and he just mumbled to his wife, Miss Marsha, who had answered the phone, to tell Rupert just take his truck since the trailer was already hooked up to it.

I took Rupert’s phone so I could confer with Miss Marsha, since I had not seen her in a while. Rupert left without his phone to go to the Wrens’ and borrow Tommy’s truck and trailer, then headed to town.

At some point as Marsha and I were talking she realized that she was supposed to pick up a borrowed piece of furniture from another friend in town that morning. Realizing that she couldn’t call Rupert to tell him to go by and pick up the bed–because I had his cell phone, talking to her–she did the only thing we could think of. We hung up and she drove to town and tracked Rupert down at the lawn mower store.

Rupert agreed to help Miss Marsha complete her mission, since he was in town with her pickup and her trailer, which was in line to receive the new mower for which Rupert was at that moment negotiating.
The price was agreed upon and the deal was struck.

The nice man at the cash register rang Rupert up and said, “By the way, we can deliver that mower for free today.”