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Sleepwalking - Tending Lawns

POSTED June 1, 2017 10:00 a.m.

Well, it’s spring and the grass is green and already I have mowed my lawn several times. That has caused me to reflect upon the old days when I earned my summer pocket money by mowing lawns and delivering newspapers. One was about as important to me as the other but lawn mowing was confined to the summer months, so I was flusher in the summer.
Gasoline powered lawn mowers were a novelty back in the 1940s. Most of the kids mowing lawns used the mower provided by the lawn owner and they were not noted for being the newest and most up to date. Those old mowers were universally of the hand pushed, reel type mower. If you are of a certain age, you know what I mean. They were normally squat, two wheeled contraptions which, when pushed, rotated a reel against a cutting bar to cut the grass. They worked relatively well when in good adjustment. The big problem was keeping them lined up properly. If not, the bar was uneven and the cut also was uneven. Or, the fit of the reel to the bar was too loose and the grass was cut in a rough and erratic way. All was well and the cut was level and complete when the mower was, as I said, in good adjustment.
When I first began mowing lawns in the summer those mowers were nearly all old with little steel wheels with their tiny cleats to grab the lawn and turn the reels. As the years went by the mowers were modernized with larger, rubber-tired wheels and the adjustment became more reliable. One of the best brands was the Eclipse Mower. They turned easily and did a good, smooth job of cutting. Like all the others, they did not handle small sticks wedged between the reel and cutting bar very well. That event usually stopped the reel and the momentum of mowing forced the mower handle into the mower’s stomach very forcibly. It was unpleasant at best.
Well, we were young and didn’t know much better. For the most part we did our jobs, accepted our pay in cash and moved on to the next job. Nice rye grass or Kentucky Blue grass presented few problems if they were mowed regularly and we got enough rain. But really hot, dry spells, as we were likely to get in August, presented another problem The nice lush grasses went dormant and were replaced by a vicious, tough grass we called turkey foot. Turkey foot had hardly any leaves. Instead it presented a bunch of woody stalks, surmounted at the end with a knot of seeds. It was a dull color more like brown than a nice green , and it fought all mowers with a dread determination not to be cut. It was so tough, in fact, that I once borrowed one of those early gasoline powered mowers to cut a patch of turkey foot and the turkey foot won. It truly was terrible stuff. I don’t know if it still appears in late summer, as my lawn is free of it now.
Through the years I, of course, became older and, as if we had been fighting some battles, those old mowers gave way to more modern gas powered ones. First there were the reel types with a small gasoline engine to provide the power. They were a much improved version of the hand powered models. Soon after, we had the first rotary mowers with a blade underneath spinning violently and shredding the grass. Still later came all those riding mowers. My first riding mower was an old John Deere, which I just plain wore out after an untold number of years. Its replacement was a Dixon, now nearly twenty years old. It’s a race to the finish to see which one of us will give up first.

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