I should have started mowing a month ago and now it’s late May. I should have mowed a week ago, after it rained so much, but I didn’t. Now it’s a jungle out there and I know damn well this is going to be a very long hard slog through knee high weeds and small trees. Primarily, I have Bahia Grass, which is a tough, drought resistant and prolific grass. It is also wiry and hard to mow when it is long or high. It sends up a tall shoot that splits into two tassels, and it’s hard as hell to cut.
I’ve had these out in the yard for about three weeks now. This is going to hurt like hell.
The same 22” push mower that was in the shed for the last nine mowing seasons is still there. Last year, it cranked up on the first pull, imagine that, but this year it doesn’t even wheeze. I’ve got a lot of money out at this very moment and cannot afford a new mower and I can’t wait another week to get this one fixed. I am no one’s mechanic. I know enough about eternal combustion engines to keep gas and oil in one most of the time. There’s fuel going into the carburetor, I can tell that, and the spark plug is older than any dog that I have right now. I might get lucky and get out of this with a two dollar part. I doubt it, but still.
Two hours of daylight have gone missing since I awoke this morning. It’s going to be hot before I begin and I know it. There’s the chance I won’t mow today at all and that bothers me, that I might have to buy a new mower, because this one has been a good one. It is ten years old. I wonder if they still make good solid push mowers anymore?
There’s two bored teens working the parts story early Sunday morning. They’re not happy to be there and who can blame them? The male tells me I’m the third spark plug for a lawn mower he’s seen today. I also get the last one of its kind, the one I’m looking for. The female tells him he needs more pennies and trades him two rolls of pennies for a dollar. They exchange a glance that lasts long than the transaction suggests it should and suddenly the guy catches me watching. Yes, I will be on my merry way, and good luck with that job site romance thing.
What to do if the spark plug doesn’t help? I can open the mower up, start replacing parts as I recognize them, maybe spend another few bucks if I can get the part, but then what? How much to spend? How little? Goats? Alpacas? I’ve got tomorrow off so I’ll go mower shopping if it comes to that, and I think it will.
Summer is here. The humidity is a violent thing, even at ten in the morning. I give the rope a few pulls and nothing, not even with the new plug. There’s a certain amount of idiocy here. I prime the engine, I pull the rope, nothing happens, and then I repeat. At what point does a rational human being understand it’s dead Jim and move on to random part replacement or trying to decide how much money to throw at the problem with a new mower?
And on the eleventy-billionth pull, the engine roars to life.
There’s a right triangle that’s formed by my neighbor’s fence and that part of the driveway that leads back to his hunting lodge. It really isn’t that big but for reasons I have never been able to explain, that is where the grass is always thickest. At this point it is where the weeds are thickest. I start there and the going to very, very, very, slow. I lift the mower up, mow the top of the grass, put the mower down, mow the rest of it, and repeat. I should have done this in March. I should have done it two weeks ago. I should have bought goats. The going is slow. I section off parts of the right triangle and the mower roars over the grass and the grass is shorter, eventually.
An hour drifts away like the dust the mower is kicking up, and usually an hour will do it but I’m not halfway there in an hour. I have to refuel the mower. Sweat is beginning to form creeks down my back and down my legs. The gnats were bad but I think the dust got to them. Another hour and I’m still mowing the front yard but the going is less intense and less snailish.
The backyard. It’s hard to describe my backyard without using a metaphor that involves artillery. There is a bunker complex that would make a World War One vet go into flashbacks. The weeds make it look like Viet Nam during rainy season. I get started on the back and have to refuel. I am out of gas in more ways than one. I have tomorrow off. I can finish this thing then, I suppose.
My clothes are covered with sweat and dust. My body feels oddly lubricated, as if I am covered in a layer of both liquid and a fine solid that forms an oily mud slick. But the Mowing Season has been kicked off. I won’t need a new mower quite yet but I’m going to have to start looking around.
I fought the lawn and the lawn won.
It’s going to be a very long hot Summer.