Men, now that spring is here, it’s time to start preparing for the very real possibility you will soon be neck deep in grass clippings. I know this because I received a Sears catalogue depicting what appears to be an all-American family taking time off from its busy modeling schedule to cook hamburgers on a brand new stainless steel grill large enough to accommodate an entire side of bull elk. As you would expect, children were in the yard squirting each other with water toys and running barefoot over a perfectly manicured lawn which, judging from the size of the family dog, must be self-cleaning. Mom was nearby, well oiled and laying on a lawn chair in her bathing suit, still recovering from her recent Victoria’s Secret lingerie shoot in the Bahamas.
Around the Hickson household, summer starts out a little differently. I was reminded of this yesterday as I stood in our back yard, waist-deep in weeds, swatting at a mosquito with a rusty spatula and trying to remember the last time I saw our hibachi.
“Do you think the grass is dry enough to mow yet?” my wife asked.
“It really needs one more day of sun,” I answered.
“Actually, I think it’s supposed to start raining tonight.”
I, of course, knew this already, which is why I’d like to submit the following performance to the members of the Motion Picture Academy for their Oscar consideration:
[Cut to: Close-up of Ned as he slowly turns toward the grass-covered window to meets his wife’s gaze. “You’re not serious, are you?” he says, watching as the yard sprouts a new dandelion. He lifts his gaze toward heaven and, with outstretched arms, hollars from between clenched teeth, “Please God! Just one more day of sunshine so I can CUT THIS LAWN!” End scene.]
Standing in front of our shed 30 minutes later, I realized — like a lot of men — I wasn’t prepared for the dreaded “First Mow” of the season. Aside from the fact that our lawn mower was buried beneath several layers of camping equipment and inflatable toys, I had a sneaking suspicion, once I dislodged the mower, I was going to find what was essentially a hardened glob of grass clippings with a starter handle.
And no gas.
And probably no oil, except for what was oozing out from under it.
Yes, our lawn mower is old. The last time I took it to the shop, a man at the counter (who I’m guessing repaired the first combustion engine) hobbled over, tapped my mower with his cane and said, “Well — That brings back some memories.”
This isn’t something you want to hear when it refers to an important piece of mechanical equipment you rely on to keep your spouse from wielding a Garden Weasel. While it’s true I’ve considered buying a new mower, I just can’t bring myself to spend that much money on something which, for all intents and purposes, I will eventually come to despise. Because of this rationale I found myself straddling the mower in the front yard, yanking on the starter handle and giving what would be the equivalent of CPR to a two-cycle engine with congestive heart failure.
“Spark plug! Starter fluid! Clear!”
Fwopp. Fwopp. Fwopp.
“More starter fluid!”
“We’re losing him, doctor!”
“I know that! Clear!”
Fwopp. Fwopp. Fwopp.
“He’s hemorrhaging, doctor!”
“Quick, another pint of oil!”
Fwopp. Fwopp. Fwopp…
I knew once I got it started, it meant a solid two hours of work. Or quite possibly less than 15 minutes, depending on how long took me to run over the hibachi. While I can laugh about it now, I wasn’t laughing last spring when I was blinded by a spark so intense it flash-burned the hair off my legs. The good news is that the neighbors who were unfortunate enough to be facing a window — any window — that particular moment regained their sight within a few days.
This still leaves me with a partially mowed yard and what is now a two-piece hibachi set.
So please, don’t looking for our family on the front of a Sears spring catalogue anytime soon.
(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. Still looking for that perfect book for summer reading? Ned’s first book, Humor at the Speed of Life,available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. Disclaimer: You should still use sunscreen when reading this book)