A yard yarn

by Jay Jamison

I’m one of those people who keeps things until they are entirely used up. I’ll get the last dollop of toothpaste from the tube before dropping it in the trash. I’ll get that last bit of ketchup out of the bottle before discarding it. I hate throwing stuff away, especially if I’m convinced there is still life or substance in it.

Last week I went out back to get the old push lawn mower out of the garage. The old machine had seen better days. The deck had some serious holes in it from corrosion, which I had patched up in past seasons with some sheet metal and pop rivets. There was a chill in the air, but the grass of my lawn had grown rapidly and was badly in need of a cut. I primed the old beast, a 6.5 HP Briggs & Stratton engine, and pulled the starter cord.


Another try, with a similar result.

I checked the fuel, the spark plug wire, the air filter — and all seemed to be OK. In desperation, I even tried a little squirt of ether starting fluid into the carburetor. Nothing.

Many tries later, and the dumb machine still stood there, mute.

I, on the other hand, put on a loud display of profanity that was truly operatic. I learned that yelling at lawn mowers is equally as futile as screaming at computers, except lawn mowers don’t snidely suggest auto-corrections to your inputs.

The dreaded day had arrived. I had to buy a new lawn mower. Several decades of reading philosophical texts has given me no guidance as to which mower is the best for the money or which dealership to try. I could consult the men at the bar, those practical gents who gather at a downtown libation and consultative center. They seem to understand mechanical devices. However, that could prove humiliating — “Lotta good that book learnin’ did ya! Ha, ha, ha,” etc. — so, I opted for a different approach.

Where does a book-learnin’ kind of guy go to solve a problem like this? I headed for the Jacksonville Public Library and asked for the latest Consumer Reports Buying Guide. In the gasoline push mowers ratings column, I spotted the Cub Cadet SCP 100. Consumer Reports rated it highly, and it was in my price range.

Additional evidence favorable to this brand of mower is that my neighbor has a Cub Cadet about the same size as the one I was considering, and I’ve never seen him launch into a profanity-ridden denunciation of his machine after yanking the pull-start. Observant readers may interject that this last consideration may have more to do with the person jerking the pull-start than the mower, and it may also occur to them that this is an example of the hasty generalization fallacy (too small of a sample to support a conclusion about an entire brand).

Two days later, after I bought my new lawn mower, I happened to be at the aforementioned libation chapel. A voice down the bar asked how I liked my new lawn mower. I was taken aback. How did he know that I just bought a new lawn mower? He later revealed that he saw it being delivered to my house. I didn’t have the heart to mention that I hadn’t consulted my colleagues at the bar before my purchase. I’m a reader. So, I’ll just wait in silence and see if they read about it in The Source.

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