Man’s second-best friend … his riding lawn mower

Sep. 07, 2013 @ 04:41 AM

Some women are golf widows. Others are abandoned when football season starts. And then there are those of us with mates who bought a used lawn mower at the flea market.

It was our neighbor Dave who made the thrifty recommendation. My own suggestion went even further. Why, I asked, does every man need his own mower? Why not just buy one that everyone in the neighborhood can share?

You’d have thought I’d just proposed we start up a neighborhood swingers club. Both men blanched and then looked pointedly away from me.

When they came back from the flea market, Tony presented me with our family’s first-ever riding mower. He had a broad grin on his face.

I told him I sensed this was an important moment for him.

“We got a steal!” he said happily.

I looked at the mower’s snappy primer gray paint job. At least the seat had been completely recovered … in rotting duct tape.

“I thought you might get a shiny green mower,” I told Tony.

“For $300, who cares about the color?”

When he cranked it up, birds scattered from trees everywhere. The thing sounded like the Satan’s Helpers motorcycle gang bombing out of a bar parking lot. With a jaunty wave over his shoulder, Tony took off.

About 20 minutes later – just long enough for the two to have forged a bond – “the steal” stalled out on Tony in a bed of kudzu. Dave’s back door slammed behind him as he ran across the street.

“We’ll get your money back, man!” he promised Tony.

To my surprise, the two actually returned a while later with the guy who sold Tony the mower. Talk about small town friendly! Sure, the lawn mower had a couple of glitches. But obviously we’d moved to a county where people cared enough about their customers to personally come make things right.

“Not exactly. We passed him on the road and flagged him down,” Tony said grimly.

The man performed whatever black arts the mower required to start up and then took his leave. But the machine operated only sporadically afterward. Half the time it sat disassembled in the garage, and during those troubled times our family became the recipients of tactfully delivered charity.

Some afternoons while mowing his own lawn, Dave would just happen to drift into our yard and mow it, too. Other days Shawn from across the street would do the same. I started to wax sentimental things again about small town friendly neighbors.

“Wrong. That is a very unsubtle hint that our dandelions are overtaking the lawn,” Tony replied darkly.

I stared at him. To think when I met this guy he played drums for a punk rock band!

The other day while he was mowing our particularly steep backyard, the mower conked out on Tony in one of the particularly thick beds of grass that had sprung up everywhere, thanks to the particularly heavy rain this summer.

“Off to the parts store!” he sang out.

That sounded suspiciously upbeat and I followed him out to the car.

“You’re actually starting to enjoy all that time alone in the garage with the mower, aren’t you?” I accused him.

“I’ve just about rebuilt the entire engine,” he said with quiet pride.

I started to whine about how the whole point of a big yard was to spend more time together as a family, not to enroll in an unofficial course on small engine mechanics. But I decided not to. Let’s face it, there aren’t too many toys a grown man can drive without looking ridiculous. And in the end, everyone needs a friend they can spend quality time with.

If they can get it to start.


Stephanie Janard is a mother and writer who lives in Spindale. She can be reached at