Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lawn Mower Man

4/12 mow 3.5 hrs @ my yard in flip-flops

Being a bit of a cheap skate I tend to buy a lot of used stuff.  This extends to pretty much my entire complement of yard equipment.  About 2 years ago, I stumbled upon this Frankenstein's monster of a mower.  It's a very early Exmark 36" walk-behind that has been MacGyver'd or more like MacGruber'd back together thousands of times.  I think it has survived 15+ years in commercial service and a few tours in Afghanistan.  Being a nice wide 36" cut with a 14hp motor it rips through my hilly and inhospitable yard in no time flat... at least it does when it's working.
Get to da mowa!
 Now this isn't my first time mowing this season, but every mow feels like the first.  You see, the mower leaks gas, burns oil and spits belts off like an angry dragon.  Not to mention it's a pull start on a Kawasaki FB460v 14hp engine, which is akin to playing tug of war with a bunch of angry chimpanzees.  So I top it up on fluids again and proceed to dislocate my shoulder getting it started.  This only takes about 30 mins, hey I'm ahead of schedule!  I kick the lever to engage the blades, no problems so far!  Drop the safeties to release the pistol grips and we lurch forward followed by some angry noises and then it rolls to a dead stop.  The engine is still going, so I immediately know I've lost the drive belt again...  This happens about once a year and is a huge pain in the ass, as I have to drop the axle to get it back on.  I have no idea how it manages to spit the drive belt with the axle in the way but it does.  Being a stubborn idiot sometimes, I figure if it can spit the belt around the axle, then I can get it back on that way.  So I struggle for another half hour rolling around in the dirt by my shed trying to get the belt on.
Note red axle blocking my access to the drive pulley above
Finally I admit defeat and proceed to push the 250lb beast uphill to my garage so I can drop the axle and put the belt back on.  This is made even more fun by my footwear selection, which happens to be a pair of flip-flops with the soles worn smooth from use (I can't wear my dress flip-flops to cut the lawn, ya know).  About this time, my wife comes home from work to laugh at me before heading inside.  I would much rather work on a car than a mower, I'm always afraid this beast is going to fall on me and cut off my arm or my head every time I have to work underneath it.  I got the belt back on and the axle bolted back in place after much cursing and knuckle busting.  Now I can begin the fun part, the actual cutting.  Being an older mower, this model seems to pre-date all safety mechanisms.  It's controlled by two pistol grips, one for each drive wheel.  Much like a grenade, when each grip is locked in the fully squeezed position, the mower is stopped, but as soon as you release the lock, you better hold on, because if you let go, the grips go full open, which means full speed, which means the mower doesn't stop until it hits something or it runs out of gas.  The only way to stop it is to squeeze the grips completely.  This makes for quite a wild ride or should I say run around my yard.  I can only imagine what the neighbors think when they see me running after this loud smoking beast in flip-flops.
View from the cockpit (note: my yard has grass, this is just the dirt patch by the shed)
So that's my long-winded excuse for why I didn't run today.  Ohh, and today's PSA:  you should never mow in flip-flops and always wear ear and eye protection, or if you have children, you should never have to mow, just make them do it!


  1. Excellent post! Reminds me of the old tiller my grandma used to make us use to till her 2 acre garden. Half the time, I didn't know who was in control, me or that death machine tiller.

  2. Holy crap that's a big garden! I hope grandma hooked you up with some awesome baked goodies for risking life and limb.

  3. Yeah, grandma had a *big* garden. I still have nightmares about snapping and stringing bushel after bushel of green beans... Of course, she gave almost everything to the family each season, only canning enough to get her and grandpa through the winter. She was a tough old bird...

  4. Grandmas rock. I know quite a few folks around the Triangle who call themselves "farmers" with smaller gardens!