Pop Goes the Wheelie

by Laurie Hanlon

Pop Goes the Wheelie

I don't think I'm one to sit idly by and watch others do a job, so I'm usually quick to offer assistance in almost any circumstance. And the fact that I may not know a lot about what needs to be done or even how to do something usually doesn't stop me. I'll kindly offer help with my list of any limitations in my abilities and let the other person make the final decision.

In the past year I've learned how to drive a tractor, rake and bail hay. I've helped with running the auger for the corn and beans so I feel I have had my share of new, and somewhat exciting, experiences. So how hard could it be to run a self-propelled lawn mower?

Now self propelled anything simply means to me that you are the self and you are propelling the piece of machinery. Sounds easy enough. But I have since found out that it isn't that simple. Which I've also come to the conclusion that either the self needs to be taken out of the equation or the propelled does. In either case, one needs to go because the combination of the two isn't safe..for the self or the propelled.

On a pleasant Sunday afternoon I offered my assistance in helping to mow the church lawn. Since my friend Gary had so much to do that day his plan was for me to meet him there around 4:00 and the two of us would do the job together. We've done this before so I was familiar with his riding lawn mower. My jobs at home were done and as I thought about it, I figured it only made sense that he take the mowers to the church and while he was doing his other jobs I could be mowing the lawn and we would be done with everything way ahead of schedule. I was quite pleased with my idea and promptly called him. Seemed he too was pleased and quickly took me up on my plan and said to meet him at the church. Once I got there he had made the first run around the edges of the lawn and was busy with the pushself-propelled.lawn mower in the back area where it was a bit harder to get with the rider.

After a short conversation covering the plan and when to call him, I asked him about the push mower since I had never used it before. Gary explained it was easy to use but during his description of what to do I finally told him to show me. Once we got to the mower it seemed the only thing different was the little lever that I was to pull to make it become a self propelled mower. Figuring that I could easily handle the thing, I told him to go back to what he was doing at his house and I would call when I was ready for him to come back and pick the mowers up. We left the push mower where it was and I got on the rider and proceeded with mowing the major part of the lawn.

The church yard has several trees in it, along with a lighted sign/bell in the front, so there were plenty of areas that would require the push mower to get up close to cut the grass that the rider was not able to get to. After about an hour I was all done with the exception of a small area that I figured I would just finish off with the push mower since I didn't see any reason to empty the bags on the rider and go all the way back for such a small area. So I rode the mower back and walked over to where Gary had left the push mower in the back among several trees.and the fence.

Now here is where I can say there is a God. First, because the mower was in a hidden area, and for what was about to happen, He spared me the total embarrassment of being out in the middle of the yard and second, because it was a slow day in Heaven and He needed a good belly laugh. And what a better way than to have Laurie run a self-propelled lawn mower for the first time.

Gary's mower is much larger than mine and in spite of him telling me that it would start after the first pull, I did manage to get it going after about 6 attempts. Now is as good a time as any to tell you that a serious pet peeve and major source of frustration for me is a mower that will not start. I have fantasies of taking a sledge hammer to a mower and smashing it to smithereens because it won't start. Since it wasn't my mower I held my self back quite well and kept trying. Finally it started and I was ready to finish the job. That was until I grabbed that little lever that made the mower go from a regular push type to a "hold on to your hats cuz we're taking off like a jet engine" self propelled mower.

There are things in life that have amazed me. Daring feats that people have done, the miracle of life, the beauty of nature and that a self propelled lawn mower can pop a wheelie. That's one thing that will go on my list of "I didn't know that could happen."

Once I pulled that lever back, that mower went from standing still to 90 mph in less than 6 seconds. I no longer have tread left on the bottom of my tennis shoes. The first thing I hit was the fence. You don't just turn a self propelled mower, you have to release that lever to get it to stop. Well, this is a valuable piece of information, now isn't it? Thankfully it was a chain link fence and had some give to it because had it been wood I would have more than likely gone straight through it to the neighbor's yard. I now understand what G force means. The pull of that mower forced my face to contort. Well, maybe it was more from me trying to hold the mower back.

After the initial shock wore off and I realized that I had to release the lever to turn the mower I was sure it would go easier. I pulled the mower off the fence, turned it around, pulled the lever, popped the next wheelie and ran up a tree. Hmmmm.this isn't going to go near as quickly as I had first thought. So I rethought the whole thing, grabbed the lever as slowly as I possible could thinking that that would make it creep along and I would be able to handle it a bit better. Nope. Well then, how about if I just push it and leave the lever alone? Nope. That's like trying to push a car thinking you're still driving it.

Not one to let something like this get the best of me, I gave it another try. To which I discovered that the bag was full and needed emptied. So I make the long trek back to the horse trailer and dump the grass clippings. I quickly take a look around to make sure no one has been watching. I don't see anyone out in their yards and only hope that they aren't peeking out their windows, lying on the floor in hysterics.

Back to the mower I go and once started, I grab that lever and off I fly. Since I have no tread left on my shoes I seem to glide along much easier on the grass now. I finally manage to get a handle on it and get the back area mowed. Now on to the front and around the trees and edges. This should be easy enough, right???? Since I already ran up one tree I figured I needed to come in at an angle to avoid doing it again. So I thought I would leave those to the end. No need to hurt myselfor the tree (I really don't care if the mower dies or not)at this stage of the game.

The church has some landscaping timbers that edge off the area around the church building itself. That area is covered in bark with some plants in the front. Did you know that mowers and bark are not a good combination either? I didn't release the lever in time and bark was flying all over the place. By now I was debating on whether or not I should just forget the push mower and pull the grass up with my hands. Finally I get the edging done and all I have left is to do around the trees. One tree down, now the next, and the next and then there were only 3 trees left to do that were towards the back part of the yard.

One thing I didn't really notice..considering my main concern was to hold on and stay standing, was that the push mower mowed lower than the rider. From one tree to the next I didn't turn the mower off, I just mowed over to the next tree. Doing this I figured was easier and made sense to me. That was until I got all done, looked around, and saw that what I had managed to do was to mow a path that was cut shorter than the rest of the grass and had lines going from one tree to the next to the next to the next. Oh dear.

I called Gary and told him I was finished.probably in more ways than oneand he said he was on his way. I was pulling some weeds, well some grass that I had missed and wasn't going to go back for, when he arrived. I walked across the lawn and met him half way. My first comment to him was, "did you know that a push lawn mower can do wheelies?" Once he got up off the ground from laughing because he knew what probably had taken place, I told him my story. He looked at me and said, "Didn't you change the speed of the lever?" Ok, we have speeds???? I thought zero to 90 was the only speed there was. No.the lever showed a picturedon't you love picturesof a turtle (meaning SLLLOOOWWW) to 7. It was set on 3. On 3!!!! On 3 I was almost running to keep up with it, lost all the tread on my shoes and my face was contorted back from the G force. Can you imagine what would have happened if it was set on 7???????

I told Gary that I was more than happy to help him with his projects. I would run a tractor, I would walk beans for him, I would run the auger, shovel grain, lift that barge, tote that bale, but I would not, ever again, run that self propelled lawn mower.

Oh, and from the constant holding on for dear life, my body ached for days. As I said earlier, I've discovered that self propelled is not a good combination. At least for this self.

That's my story..I voted he get a cow and call it a day for the mowing again.

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