Thursday, July 4, 2013

Ol' Murray

My mobile memory machine


I have a secret thinking spot - atop my Murray 12 horsepower, 38" lawnmower. The creaky old gal from Ohio still starts up without a fuss (most days, kinda). She has a tendency to shudder when you engage the blade, and shifting is anything but smooth, but for whatever reason, she helps to clear my head.

I tell people all the time how I enjoy spending time doing simple manual labor. I sit too much and think critically too hard all day and it gets exhausting. At the end of the workday I like to have something to sweat in the sun too. It's nice to have a task that doesn't require me to do much thinking, just plain old doing; let my mind wonder.

At home there's about an acre of lawn to mow, and in the heat of summer it needs to be done almost twice a week. In fact my brothers and I will actually have fights over whose turn it is to mow the lawn (redneck much?). Bo will insist that he's always getting to it, that he's saving it for later when he's bored and needs something to fill his time with. Jed, on the other hand, will try to get the jump by doing something ridiculous. Like running out there to cut the lawn in the morning before the grass is even dry - crazy right?! And me, well I just play the big brother card and ban them from using my stuff if they don't let me do it.

Oh, and don't even get me started on my sister operating a bladed vehicle…the poor little maple in the front yard has died more than it's fair share of deaths, Chelsea...


In the end though one of us three Carlson men ends up out on the lawn, shirtless, driving back and forth, pitching up clouds of dirt and pollen into the air, puttin' around the trees in figure eights, and cuttin' in reverse the tight spots. We all have pretty much the same approach to trimming the grass - doing the sections in a certain, unspoken order. And then there's the ditch at the end of the driveway. I always cut the ditch lengthwise, Jed does it in short passes, and Bo just skips it all together. Shape up, Bo.

I'm not sure what they get out of it. I know I used to listen to music on headphones sometimes when I was younger, and I've seen them both do that before as well. Pretty sure I've yelled at the two of them for it. That's no good for your ears, fellas.

I use to pretend sometimes I was a hand on a big farm as a kid, now I just pretend I'm an old man trimming the grass. I've been using Murray since my grandpa Al first brought her to the house one sunny afternoon when I was in Junior High School. Yup, every time I climb back into that hard rubber seat I remember when he first showed me how she worked.

"Now put your foot right here and push the break all the way in," he told me. "The clutch has to be engaged and you need to be in neutral or she won't start. That's for safety."

He was also insistent that I never, ever, for any reason, have the blade engaged while driving above second gear. I remember numerous times he'd be visiting and I'd be mowing and he would come flying down off the porch, flag me down, and tell me I was going too fast. I mean, it's a big lawn, and third gear is just the right speed for a lot of it, just not while grandpa was watching. I never argued him on it, just waited until he was indoors or on a run to the hardware store (a daily occurrence) before speeding back up.

Inevitably, when being held back from doing something, it only made me more curious to see how fast she could go in fifth gear…that was the summer we had sporadic ruts crop up all over the gravel driveway.

Grandpa Al, if you're reading this from heaven, just know that time is catching up with me too. I do actually think second gear gives the lawn the best cut. It's more even and it's a lot easier on the blade and the deck when I'm not zooming over everything in sight. I've been using second gear a lot more in recent years.

I guess that's why I like mowing the lawn so much - it gives me a lot to think about.

“Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.”
- Oscar Wilde

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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