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Time to Get Mowing
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Since I mowed the lawn for the first time this year, it must be the first week of May. We're surrounded by trees, casting shade, sending thirsty roots out into the soil. The desiccated earth is choked with rocks. What little parched grass we have is fighting a losing battle with weeds, moss and ferns, so there's never any reason to mow during April. It's always the first week of May before I need to unlock the shed where the mower's been hibernating. Never earlier. Never later. In the spring, I could set my calendar by the height of our lawn.

This year, the gasoline can needed filling. At $3.89 per gallon it cost me $10.89 cents. For years I could never manage to squeeze $10 of gas into the tank of the Chevette I drove. What does it say about the economy when it costs more to fill a gas can than it used to cost to fill a car? We have to fight for survival like our grass.

I leaned over and started to pick up the filled gas can and my back *went*!

Oh the joys of spring.

By the time I got home I was going through all the curse words I knew for the third time. After enough painful contortions for a circus act I got both myself and the gas out of the car and crept, Quasimodo-like, to the shed.

The shed's rusted padlock still worked -- better than my back. The wobbly door didn't fall off its hinges, like my back apparently had done. Better yet, it was too early in the year for the giant spiders that usually occupy the inside of the door, and too cold for the wasps to have started building their nests. I noticed that the patch I'd put on the roof had kept the winter snow and rain out, although, like me, the roof looked pretty hunched.

The mower's old. It is on it's last legs, or would be if it had legs instead of wheels. The corroded holes all around the engine platform are sealed with duct tape to keep me from being stained green by a backwash full of clippings. I noted gratefully that the tape had not been gnawed away by mice during the winter. The way my back was keeping me bent over, I would've had a green face until next January.

Every summer mysterious bits of rusty metal fall off from underneath the mower. Guards for the rotary blade maybe? Sometimes I leave screws in my wake. I can only speculate as to what they are supposed to secure. As long as the contraption still runs, who cares? The lawn has so little fight, it only needs to be knocked down ten times a season.

I filled the gas tank, primed the engine, gritted my teeth and gave the cord a mighty yank. Or as near as my distressed vertebrae would allow. The mower roared to life the first try. Can you believe it?

Yeah, it'd be funnier if it wouldn't start, but the hell with that.

I leaned on the handle. The mower is not, unfortunately, self propelled. My back remonstrated with me. Surely I did not intend to mow in my current condition? Of course, I did, I replied. It's the first week of May. I have to mow. (Amazing what you can say using nothing but four letter words.)

Staggering forward, supporting myself on the handle, I pushed the mower in front of me like a noisy Zimmer frame. Which, essentially, it was.

Back and forth I lurched, avoiding rocks, ferns, stumps, the remnants of old woodchuck holes and fallen branches I was not about to try to bend over to pick up, for fear I might have to crawl back to the house if I tried.

At last I was done. Nothing fell off the mower, not the wheels, not the engine, not the blade. Good news. Perhaps the ancient machine will make it through another year. Then again we've been having a lot for rain. Seven and a half inches during one four day period alone. And grass, even enfeebled, harried, grass like we have, does love rain.

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