WOSTER: Mowing memories


When we bought our new place in Chamberlain and began moving in, I discovered that part of the deal was the riding lawnmower in the corner of the garage.

Now that was an unexpected bonus. For the last four years we’d lived at a place where the yard work was part of the deal, so once a week or so I sat at the patio window and watched a young guy buzz around the huge communal green space on his mower, speeding over the grass, spinning tight circles around trees and posts. I liked the idea of not being responsible for the yard work, but I kind of missed the smell of being out in the fresh-clipped grass.

For most of my adult life, for as long as we’ve rented or owned homes, I did the yard work. For a while in Pierre, we had quite an expanse of lawn, particularly what we called the backyard. Over decades, I managed to reduce the amount of grass by enlarging the so-called footprint of the house with a couple of additions. No matter the size of the lawn, though, I cut it regularly, and always with a gasoline-powered mower that I walked behind, pushing up the slopes and holding back on the downhills. I’m not complaining. It was usually an enjoyable part of owning a home.

It wasn’t, however, like being a young kid on the farm and mowing whole quarter-and half-sections of alfalfa with a Ford tractor and a sickle-bar mower. That was living large. I didn’t realize how much I missed that experience until I saw the blue riding mower in the garage. It wasn’t as fancy as the little gray-and-red Ford tractor from the farm, but it was self-propelled and I didn’t have to do the walking.

With the help of our son and a grandson, I charged the battery and managed to get the engine to crank over. Eventually, it sat there at the edge of the lawn, purring like a kitten, if by kitten you mean an angry old alley cat. I found an air compressor, also left in the back of the garage as part of the deal, pumped up one flat tire, hopped onto the operator’s seat, engaged the gears and headed off to conquer the mixture of grasses, weeds and assorted, unidentified vegetation that comprises my new lawn. Since we’d agreed to take care of the vacant lot next door, I had quite a swath of property to cover on that first cutting.


It took a bit of getting used to the way the steering levers worked, and I made one pass before I realized I’d bumped the height adjustment and cut down closer to the roots of the grass blades than even a goat would manage. I grew in confidence, though, starting to feel as in control on that machine as I used to on the Ford tractor.

When I’d finished the job, I shut down the motor and sat on the mower, surveying my work. I have to tell you, I felt as if I’d become a member of the landed gentry, which has always sounded like a pretty high-falutin club of which to be a member. I could see a headline: “Newest member of landed gentry surveys his kingdom.’’ I felt as if I should be on the lookout for poachers trying to take one of the king’s deer.

I considered starting a renaissance festival there on my vast holdings. I could maybe use a Robin Hood theme, with the trees comprising Sherwood Forest and the river bank the place where Robin and Little John had their duel with the long tree limbs. If you mow it, they will come, might be the motto of the place. We could roast wild boar and what-not, maybe serve big schooners of mead, whatever that is.

Then it occurred to me that I’d probably need all sorts of permits for such an event. I’d certainly have to do a lot of the work getting ready and taking care of visitors. I wouldn’t care for that. I retired to not work.

I’ll probably just mow once in a while and dream the rest of the time.

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