Saturday, April 12, 2008

Will Somebody Think of the Lawn?

I broke the lawnmower. It isn’t the first time I’ve done such a thing, and the lawnmower isn’t exactly the most fragile piece of equipment, so you’d think doing so would take considerable effort. However, not so much in my case.

The first couple of times I’ve broken the lawnmower was because I was using it as a leaf blower. I don’t have a leaf blower and I’ve lamented that having one would make my life considerably easier, as it would make shooing out of the wood-chipped areas the fallen flower petals from the big tree in the front yard much easier (that sentence was awkward, I'm sorry). Instead, I lift the lawnmower up and over the concrete curbing that lines the area so the whirling of the blade blows out the unwanted debris. It usually works well, except for when it doesn't. One time I tried this a couple of years ago, it didn’t occur to me that a large rock in front of the mower would interfere with the above mentioned whirling. It tore off the blade and drove it into the lawn next to my feet.

Touché lawnmower.

Of course, I didn’t learn my lesson and I did it a second time a few months later. Of course, finding blades for a Craftsman lawnmower can only be done at a Sears, which is somewhat of a trek for me as there isn't one nearby...and once you're there, it failed to occur to me that there would be more than one size. I had to go back home and measure it, and when I went back to Sears, my measurements didn't match up with any available sizes. The third trip, I brought the blade with me, which for certain raised a few eyebrows of fellow customers wondering if I had plans of getting stabby. Always reminded me of "Sling Blade," and I was curious if it was even legal to walk around with a 22-inch double sided lawnmower blade. I tried to look friendly, at least.

The main concern here is that I don’t take good care of my lawnmower, and you’d think that I would because I think that I am one of those people whom others see as someone who would take considerable care of his lawnmower. But I don’t. I bought it probably seven years ago. At the old house, I got in on the communal lawnmower that my neighbors shared with each other…whomever mowed their lawn would just mow everyone else’s too. Which was fine by me, as the front yards were small and I didn’t mind being neighborly... and it only meant that I would have to mow my own lawn once every month or so. However, the fact that I was borrowing someone else’s stuff was bothersome, especially since I would either have to wait until I saw someone mowing their lawn, meaning the mower was out of the neighbor’s shed and available, or I’d have to slink into his backyard and get the mower myself. That always made me feel like I was stealing it or at the very least imposing on their privacy, so I decided to get my own.

I sold a bunch of Volkswagen stuff at a car show (stuff I had gotten for free, mostly) and with that windfall, I plunked it down for a 6.5hp Craftsman lawnmower, my manufacturer of choice. It earned a place in the garage until the newness wore off and then it lived under an old barbecue tarp in the side yard. I’d drag it inside at the first hint of rain though, but for the most part, it became an outdoor pet.

I can’t imagine that did it any favors. But, it has always run beautifully. I’ve never changed the oil. I’ve never replaced the spark plug. I’ve never cleaned it. I’ve never inspected its filters…and I can’t even tell you if it has any. Basically, I fill it with gas, pull on the cord and fire it up. It initially belches white smoke, which I know to be a bad sign, and there’s some strange rattle coming from somewhere. My biggest fear is that if I suddenly complete all of this maintenance on it that it will go into some sort of shock and cease to function properly, as if the gunk and oily crap that is clogging its innards are the only things keeping it in working order.

When I regularly use it, it cuts the grass nicely and without complaint. However, let the summer grass grow for any more than two weeks, and I’ve got to crank up the wheels and make a half dozen passes, lowering the blade slightly for each new sweep. If I don’t, it bogs down and quits in the thick sod or merely sprays cut grass out from under it, which makes a giant mess.

Yesterday, I wasn’t in that great of a mood, so instead of making the situation worse, I decide to take out my frustration on the lawn. Apparently, I was too frustrated, because when I yanked on the cord to start the motor, the cord didn’t retract like it should. I just hung there while the motor purred.

So, my go-to solution to mechanical problems: I took it apart...and found nothing. I couldn’t even figure out how the cord is supposed to retract. Its housing is riveted to the motor casing so I couldn’t even pull it apart to inspect the inside of the cord housing, and it is a total mystery how it even works. Cripes. I am allowed about three or four inches of pull, which is enough to start the motor when it is nice and warm, but when it is stone cold, I need every bit of that cord to turn it over, sometimes pulling three or four times.

Starting like a prop of a plane sounds to me like I’d end up with a few fingers shy of a full hand, and rigging up some kick starting mechanism (with a drill or something else) seems far fetched. When I had it apart, I attempted to wind up the cord manually, but it would only allow me to do that so far before some sort of tension built up and spit back whatever cord I had stuffed back into it. And yet, from what I could see, the winding mechanism and the cord have no contact with any other moving parts, as if magic retracts the cord after the motor has started.

Kara suggested that I take it in to a lawnmower mechanic, if such a person exists, but I balked. A real man should be able to repair his own lawnmower without having to load it into the family minivan and—make sure you don’t get your LL Bean khakis dirty and be sure to put down plastic to keep the grass clippings from getting on the car’s carpet—and haul it down to some guy who will judge me as an incompetent moron who can’t repair a small motor. And then charge me money for it to boot.

It is a matter of personal pride to fix it myself, and how I’m going to do that has yet to occur to me. But whatever I come up with, I’ve got to do it quick. Spring is upon us and my grass waits for no man.

I’ve got two weeks until the grass will grow so high and thick (especially this time of year) that I’ll need a machete and a bushman of the Kalahari to find the sprinkler heads.

And it looks so nice when it is mowed.

1 comment:

Ryan or Kara said...

It's already looking a little high in spots.


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