Sliding Down the Learning Curve, Things to Avoid #1

I think I have hinted occasionally that i am not originally from ‘around here’, and by here I mean rural Maine, we emigrated in 19___, and as I am sure you can understand there were a few ‘adjustments’ to make, and since Maine declined to make any, it was up to me to make them.
Here we are in late March, and sandwiched between heavy wet snowstorms, it apparently ‘became’ spring, as reckoned by those in the know. Now in the old country (that’s you England) spring is quite a glorious season, the birds return and give their voices a good work out, the plants bud and gradually burst into full glory as the weather gently warms, giving you time to transition slowly from winter wear to summer.
In Maine, at the end of winter you get the freshnet, the spring thaw, when all the dirty snow becomes piles of sand, driveways become rutted mud-pits, and the inside of your car looks like you have been transporting mud as a sideline. I believe the adage goes something like “You know its spring in Maine when you can go from heat to A/C in your car in the morning, and back again at night.”
Then comes spring, which really is just the muddy bit in between fighting huge amounts of frozen water, and fighting huge amounts of growing things. I suppose after a few years, my perception of Old Blighty is rather idealized, but I imagine the rolling hills of the South Downs, the green grass of my parents lawn being gently mowed with a quiet electric flymo. Here in Maine, it seems like the bit’s of the year which don’t involve Snowmobiling are taken up with fighting the ever encroaching flora. Our little plot of heaven appears to be affected with a rather horrible plant known as Virginia Creeping Rose, which is armed with thorns, and the ability to carry away small dwellings and eat flesh. Apart from that, you need to be equipped with lawn devices far larger and deadlier than those necessary in England. Back in the old country, an electric mower was perfect, even without a huge extension cord, you were never too far from an outlet, it was light and cheap. Over here, with huge rolling lawns and encroaching flora, you need something with a large engine, 5 hp will simply not do the job, it needs to be self-propelled, preferable ride-on, and have multiple blades, oh and expect it to break down regularly when you try to mow small trees with it.
With the proliferation on small engines in mowers, lawn tractors, strimmers (weed wackers) leaf blowers and suchlike, each town has its own tinkerer. Generally they are older, harping back to a simpler time before hydrogen propulsion, and may come with large amounts of ‘salvage’ in the front yard. Anyway, you will probably at some point end up taking your outdoor device to this man for a service, or when the damn thing won’t start and the grass is now twelve inches deep, or if you are unable to figure out the basic oil change stuff. Of course if you are serious about your lawn, you will need a sit-on tractor, which firstly will probably cost you the same as a a small car, and will require q delivery device to get it too and from the professional garage you now have to take it too, which requires a pic-up truck with trailer just to get it fixed.
All of which scene setting brings us quite nicely to today’s tale of woe. It was back in 19__ when we were fresh off the boat, living in a very large, very old and drafty farmhouse in rural Maine, with a could of acres of lawn to care for. Firstly there required a visit to the local ‘fixer’ to get the rather elderly lawn tractor back in working condition. Then came the familiarization run, getting used to a vehicle with sloppy steering, no muffler and a whirling blade of death underneath my seat. After a few run’s you develop a technique, whereas before in England a few pushes back and forth with the flymo can do the job, more like vacuuming than mowing, but this new environment required a more structure approach. You didn’t want to get into any situation where you had to back-up, since getting into reverse was kind of tricky, and you were never sure you could come out of it, and besides it really slowed you down. So the ideal approach was one which kept you going forwards at all times, and only needing one pass over each area.
We had emigrated with three boys, one just a babe-in-arms, and as well as lawns to play in, they also required equipment to play on, and I have purchased and erected a swing-set combination of two swings and a slide. Now I was in grass clearance mode, this toy equipment now posed a different problem, since it had to be both mowed around and through. On my first few mowing ‘days’, my approach was to go around, then to return later with a weed wacker. However this was time-consuming, and one day it occurred to me that as well as mowing around the swing set with the lawn tractor, I could also mow under it, thus saving the time with the weed wacker. However it did not occur to take precautions with the equipment, I merely thought that as I approached the swings, I would be able to reach forward and push them out of my was as I mowed under them. unfortunately this did not prove true, as I approached the swings, the soft plastic seat became caught on the front of the steering assembly, a possibility I had not considered, and due to this lack of preparation, I was not ready to react well to the circumstances as they unfolded. As the lawn tractor kept moving forward, the swing moved in its axis, describing an arc with the crosspiece of the swing set as it’s center, and moving away from the ground, taking the front of the lawn tractor with it. The tractor was unfortunately rear-wheel drive, and my reaction was also unfortunately stunned at this point, instead of taking my foot off the accelerator and stopping the tractor from moving forward, I kept the pedal pushed down, as the lawn tractor gracefully tried to accompany the swing seat in describing an arc, and flipped right up like a bucking bronco.
At this point the survival instincts kicked in, I rolled off the rearing steed, which tried to roll over on top of me, and as I discovered later, slicing the sole of my left shoe neatly in two, but not even scratching my foot.
Well after I recovered my composure, flipped the mower back over, started it, and established no-one in the house was any-the-wiser, I continued on mowing, a little shaken, but also a little wiser. You see over here they need pretty heavy-duty equipment for the everyday fight against the environment, whereas in England you can get away with a nice gentle flymo.


About limey6

Father of four, husband of one, Ex-pat ex cop Englishman living in rural Maine
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One Response to Sliding Down the Learning Curve, Things to Avoid #1

  1. I’m glad your foot was OK. 🙂


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