Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dude, Where's My Lawnmower?

So it rained on and off most of the day Saturday making mowing out of the question. That task got pushed to today.

Counter to my previous entry, and entirely counter to my long-standing hatred of all things yard-related, it was a pleasant day. It was warm and sunny with the occasional breeze. The birds were singing. And I even spied a baby bunny under one of the bushes. (Too cute!) And the lawnmower, on its last leg, managed to complete its final tour of duty.

I say that because I "inherited" a lawnmower last fall. My great aunt and uncle sold their house and moved into assisted living and I received their lawnmower. A self-propelled lawnmower. A Honda lawnmower. A lawnmower that cost over $400 when it was purchased almost 20 years ago.

If you knew my great aunt and uncle, you wouldn't even briefly wonder why their 20-year-old lawnmower is better than my 14-year-old version. (I'm sure my Uncle Ed, now in his 90s, still has the first power tool he ever purchased. And I'm equally certain that it's in near pristene condition.) One small caveat: It had a coil or a cellunoid issue. So, I rolled it down the street to Stan, the Lawnmower Man. I told him I was in no hurry to get it back. Stan marveled at my new mower. "You do realize that this was the Cadillac of its day?" he had asked me as he met me halfway to claim it for repair.

That was in November.

With this year's long winter, followed by an extended battle with the seasonal bug, I didn't try to reclaim my mower. But Thursday, as I was dashing for the bus, Stan was coming out as I passed his house. I finally inquired about my inherited lawn Cadillac. "I'll bring it home this weekend," says Stan.

On Saturday, I checked between downpours to see if Stan was home. No dice. I repeated the ritual -- minus the raindrops -- today so I had plenty of time to finish before the yard waste dump closed at 6. Finally drug out my old orange friend, purchased at the long-defunct GrandPa's for about $89 in 1994. While the engine is still in pretty good working order, the chassis is another story. The left side of the frame is almost entirely rusted out. This meant I had to gingerly run it today. But it made it through.

In all those years, I've invested about $45 in it. I spent $35 a few years back to get the engine running again and I spent $10 last year to buy a new bagger from Stan after the frame from the original finally gave out, rendering it useless. I always remembered what my grandfather said about lawnmowers. First, that you never buy anything but a Briggs & Stratton engine. Check. Second, always drain the gas and engine oil at the end of the season and replace them every year. And keep the filter clean. Check - well, almost. (I think I missed one season draining the engine oil in all those years. I think that was the year I rebuilt the deck floor and ruined my hands.) But I cleaned that filter at least twice a season. Usually more.

I honestly don't know if the new mower has a B&S engine, but I hope so. Not sure if I know how to drain the oil or clean the filter on the new one, but I guess I'll be learning. Because it sure sounds like the old man was right.

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