By DAVID GREEN
The spring ritual began a week ago Saturday: the first lawn mowing of the year. It didn't go smoothly.
I prepared in advance for that moment. I took the blade to Perryman's for sharpening, reattached it, decided to start in the front yard.
It's the Black and Decker electric model that I bought a few years ago, the one with the purplish cord that my neighbor, Adam, teased me about. I wanted something that would easily show up on green grass. I was new to electric mowing and a little concerned about mowing over the cord.
I've become quite proficient with only a minimum of embarrassing moments. I learned to loop the cord around the back of my neck. I learned to start close to the electrical outlet and work my way out.
Sometimes I would vary from the routine, take a wrong turn and feel the cord tighten around my neck. Sometimes I would want to take a different pattern and end up encountering the cord and having to reach down and pull it out of the way. Sometimes the cord would catch on the edge of the step, get hung up on a tough yucca plant, become knotted.
I'm making it sound as though an electric mower isn't the way to go, but I really like that mower, even though it's largely coal fired with a little nuclear thrown in. The electricity has to come from somewhere.
So I got it out a week ago Saturday, plugged it into a front porch outlet, started it up (the best part of electric; you just squeeze the handle) and walked off.
Something wasn't right. There was a strange sound. There was an odd smell. It didn't seem to be cutting well at all.
I unplugged it, flipped it over and discovered that the fan mechanism was striking the bottom of the mower deck. The smell was plastic burning as it was getting worn away by friction.
Apparently I lost a washer or something when I removed the blade. Now two sections of the fan had broken off.
So back in the garage it went and out came its predecessor: the Scotts Classic reel push mower. I remember when it was new. Very impressive. It's similar to the old mowers of my youth, but updated with good features.
I've concluded that it would be an excellent mower for a good lawn. Too bad I don't have one. I have dips and rises. I have dandelions arriving and before long there will be plantain. This mower doesn't handle weeds very well at all. I have areas of some really tough grass that pretty much require a second mowing, from a different direction.
Still, when I finish mowing with the Scotts, I look out my window and the lawn appears to be trimmed. It's not short like I would mow with the electric, but it's shorter than it was before I started and it looks pretty good—until my neighbor spoils it by having her grass trimmed rather close to the ground and then mine suddenly looks unkempt.
Time to start a campaign against really short grass. If everyone allowed their grass to grow a little taller before mowing—as lawn people recommend—we could have a city of grass worth lying down on. Not the short, poky stuff close to the ground, but a more luxurious growth. Softer, grassier.
Using the Scotts takes me back many decades to a time before we owned a power mower, to quieter times. The sound of a reel mower is one of those mystery sounds from the past. Kids don't know it. I can hear a power mower at work right now that must be at least a block away. A reel mower just produces that gentle whirring, wisping sound that's unlike anything else.
The reel mowers from the old days didn't push as easily as the new ones. It was an exciting change when we bought our first power mower, although I remember continuing to cut my grandmother's big yard with her old reel mower, entering that little "secret" area at the back that was nearly surrounded by trees. I was probably happy when I finally got to cover all of that territory with a gas-powered model.
I'll be using the reel mower for as long as I can, when I finally have a lawn littered with dead dandelion stalks, and in the meantime I need to get to the repair facility in Perrysburg.
Now, I want everyone to go out to your garage and raise the cutting height of your mower a couple notches. Don't make me look bad.