Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Well Mow Me Down!

It took two weeks and I'm almost crippled, but the front yard has been mowed.

Don't talk to me about the backyard. I'm counting on a fire, or a miracle. Or a miracle fire.

Our lease requires that we take care of the yard. That's not unreasonable. When we moved in last August we acquired through Craig's List a push mower. It was what we could afford. It got the job done and didn't kill any of us, although it was a lot of effort. Then thankfully the fall and winter came and the lawn didn't grow much.

But time moves on, as it will, and as spring approached we were quickly becoming the bane of the neighborhood. Our neighbors are people who take their lawn care seriously, out there at all hours of the day and dusk edging and blowing and mowing. And our lawn was as shaggy as a pirate's beard.

We had gotten the push mower out two weeks ago and were eyeing the tangle of grass, when the guy across the street came over. He's a nice guy who is having his own trouble with the neighborhood home care Gestapo, and may well be leaving soon. Lawn care is the least of his worries, and he offered us his lawn mower. It had been given to him by a neighbor and he'd never been able to get it running, but it should work fine, he assured us.

It didn't. I will spare you the monotonous details, but it didn't start. We drained the gas, which was green. Our benefactor had thought it needed two-stroke oil in the fuel. He was mistaken. Replaced that and we could get it to start, sputter and die, start, sputter and die. Obviously there was a problem with the carburetor. Tori thought it was just dirty. I was sure the choke valve was stuck. We probably were both right.

Sunday, after two weeks of fiddling and fussing and swearing (mostly the latter) we gave it one more try without any better luck. It was maddening. We knew the problem – gas was not getting from the tank to the cylinder – but nothing we tried worked. I threw up my hands – one of which had a broken blister from repeatedly pulling the start cord, and my breath was coming in short gasps. "I'm done for today." I said.

I gave it one more tug. The motor sputtered to life. And ran. 10 seconds. 20. It coughed but kept going. It ran for two minutes. Three. When it sputtered, Tori would spray a little more starting fluid and it kept going. Four minutes. Five. At seven minutes she decided to see how long it would keep going without the spray. At 12 minutes, we realized it was running.

Max came out to do most of the actual mowing. It is not at all a well lawn mower, and the thickness of our tangled lawn almost did it in. But we were able to get the whole front yard mowed. Every time it died – and it did often – we were able to start it again. I can barely lift my right arm, but our neighbors may stop cursing at us, at least about the lawn.

The real proof of the pudding will be the next time. Will we be able to start it cold?

And then there's the backyard, a mess. But thanks to the fence, our neighbors don't see that. So screw 'em.