Tilt-a-Whirl Snapper

   "It's only two hundred dollars," my husband's voice echoed over the phone.
   "A lawn tractor for two hundred dollars?" I was in awe.
   "No, no.  Not a lawn tractor.  A Snapper."
   My brows furrowed.  About now the old advice of not getting something for practically nothing should have been throbbing through my head, but I'm full of eternal hope.
   "What do you mean?"
   I heard him sigh."You, know.  Like the old-fashioned ones with the motor in the back."
   "Oh. Well, how old is it?"
   His voice dropped a bit with irritation.  "I don't know.  Old."
   "Does it have a steering wheel?" Whining laced my voice and I tried to tromp it down.
  He took a deep breath. "No."
   "Does it have a key or is it a pull start?"
   "A pull start." His voice took on an irritated snap.
   I chewed my lip and ignored it.  "Can you come home and take me to see it?"
   "I can," his voice belied his lack of enthusiasm, "but then it'll be too dark to mow, and the lawn is getting tall.  If I buy it now, I can come home and be finished."
   Warning heeded.  "Okay, do what you think is best."
   I wandered the house in anticipation.  He seemed happy with it, so perhaps it was better than he let on.  It wasn't long before I heard him drive in.  I rushed out, anxious to see our new purchase.  He let the tailgate down and rumbled the thing to the ground. 
   Good grief.  It was a dinosaur. Literally. A triceratops lawnmower.  It was older than the hill, and I've heard that's dang old.
   I look up at him in disbelief.  "You bought that?"
   His face went still. "You don't get much for two hundred bucks."
  My eyes bulged and my lip curled. "Obviously."
  He shot me a bushel of optic knives and leaned over the contraption to give a pull on the rope.  It fired right up.  He hopped on and took off in mowing heaven. Loud mowing heaven. Extremely loud.
I crossed my arms and scowled.  If he thought I was mowing with that lawnmower prototype, he had another thing coming.
  And I put my sooty nose in the air and didn't mow for most of the summer. It was his own fault for buying such gross little turtle-like contraption.  I often peeked at him through the blinds, guilt gnawing at me.
   Because I scoffed at the thing for not having a steering wheel, he removed our old lawn tractor's, and placed it on that rattletrap.  Only the steering column was too short, and he ended up gripping the wheel hunched over between his knees.  Oh, yeah.  That's attractive. Picture a grown man in a battery operated Barbie convertible for children.  Uh, huh.  Only without the pretty pick plastic and Barbie stickers.
   But the day came that my husband had overtime, the lawn waxed long, and I, feeling quite remorseful at my pride, humbled myself and wrestled the red Triceratops from his resting spot amongst the spiders in the shed. I would do my duty.  I would climb aboard the most embarrassing form of transportation in the neighborhood.  I would sacrifice my pride for the sake of helping out.
   But first, I had to figure out how to do it.  I wasn't used to starting a mower first owned by Paul Revere. The throttled was broke, shocker, so I trailed the wire to the engine and found where to adjust the speed. An extra button had been installed, via the old man who'd suckered my husband into buying this piece of junk.  A label from a handy label-maker had been added.  'Out for on, in for off.'  Simple enough.  I turned up the throttle on the engine block, pulled the redneck button under the seat out, and tugged on the rope.
   The thing started first try. Hmmm. My low estimation of this hunk of iron elevated a fraction.  I climbed on.  It was sorta like riding a turtle, I surmised as I bent to grab the steering wheel.  I flipped on the mowing deck at my feet. Then I located the gear shift which, hard to believe, was a little obstinate. But my bicep bulged and I was off.
   Whoa!  It bounced me here, it bounced me there, it bounced me in a circle. It was a lawn mower version of Tilt-a-Whirl! I clutched the steering wheel between my knees as I tried to hold my balance, laughing so hard I couldn't stop.  Tears rolled down my face.  The more I tried to stop laughing at the entire situation, my silly posture, and the ridiculous swaying motion of the mower, the harder I laughed. I couldn't help but wonder what the neighbors were thinking of the weirdo mowing her entire lawn with her head thrown back in giggles. I was most thankful for my MIB sunglasses.
   I finally finished, and the yard didn't look half bad.  And just think, I didn't have to pay those outrageous theme park prices for a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl. 
   Looking back, I realize it's not so bad.  I still have it by the way. Heck, I still use it. Next time I'll have to tell you the story of how I cut too close to a tree and knocked the gas tank off.  It kept running until I finally realized I was dragging it and stopped. I had to reattach it with thick twine.  My bailing wire dad would be so thrilled at my innovation. But I killed a streak of grass where the gas spilled.
   Or perhaps I'll tell you about the time I filled it too full with gas, and since it has three punctures at the top, ( I know this shocks you) it spewed gas at every bump until the back tire was soaked and the gas level lowered.  Ah, yes.  Good times.
  But I remind myself of this.  If I mow with Tilt-a-Whirl Triceratops long enough, I might save enough money for a plane ticket to Hawaii. Huh.  Now who's laughing? Oh, it's me-again. 

Hey, wait a minute. You want to buy a mower? It starts right off.  It's not so good on the gas, but you'll more than make that up with your the savings at Six Flags.  Just a thought. Hope springs eternal!

Lawn Tractor Disaster 1

   Alas, this is a sad story. Avert your eyes, ye weak of heart. Arm yourself with tissues, ye who are brave enough to wade in.

   Once upon a time I owned a lawn tractor.  A gleaming, shining, red lawn tractor. My, it was a beauty to behold!  It had headlights, to my delight, and a cushioned seat, that was neat, a big nubby tires to yield a smooth ride, and that was fine.  There were more bells and whistles that I could shake a stick at or mow over, so to speak. 
But what was most transfixing was the silver keyhole.  (Insert Angels singing here.)  And in my hand I gripped the tiny key attached to the heart keyring in my sweaty palm.  It wasn't brand new, but it only had couple of seasons on it-I was thrilled.
     You see, I have the summers off.  Therefore I am the caretaker of the lawn.  It's a job I enjoy, for the most part.  There is no satisfaction quite like the sweat of true hard work manicuring the landscape and grass.  Plus, it's a freebie tanning appointment so it's a two for one.  So you can now perhaps understand my excitement of owning this venerable piece of equipment.
     Our previous lawn mowers had been a push, upgraded to a used self-propelled push, downgraded to an ancient low set lawnmower that I sat on as a three-year old.  Suffice it to say, that was several years ago. Several decades, actually. 
     The old rider rarely obeyed.  The steering was loosey-goosey, the seat was metal, and the clutch pedal stopped the machine sporadically.  And there was certainly NO KEYHOLE!  It was shoulder-breaking work to yank start it, and it had to be in the, 'mood.'  You, know, you had to play, "At Last," by Etta James, and fondle the throttle. Whoa.  A little PG-13, there.
     So when I set my eyes on that Murray wonder, I fairly squealed in delight.  We paid six hundred dollars for it in '92, which was way too much, but that is a way different story.  I sat on the black vinyl seat-ahhhh! I pushed in the clutch-no ear wrenching squeaks.  Lovely.  I inserted the key and turned.  I know my mouth fell open at the ease at which the engine fired.  Briggs and Stratton, baby, humming like a momma rocking a sleeping child.
    I reveled in the gears.  It would creep in first gear.  That was helpful in avoiding the doors of the shed where I stored it.  And it had fifth gear that was great fun with the blade disengaged and my children in my lap.  But I settled comfortably in third gear when I was out to do some serious mowing.  But the gear that I was most thankful for was reverse. 
   You see, the old mower didn't have reverse.  Ever tried to mow a whole yard only going forward?  It's a tricky business, and the scenery gets really old.  It's takes twice as long.  On the Murray, I was done in 30 minutes.  I, was in love.
   Now, time moves on to time, and the Murray became part of our normal equipment.  I stopped picking up sticks in the yard before I mowed.  It was easier to run over them.  And being a bit scatterbrained, I left the occasional item in the yard, like my dad's wooden handled hammer, and I would accidentally run over these things.  Oops.  Sorry, Dad.
  And what was the point of backing up, going forward, backing up, going forward, when I would just drive really close and riiipppppp!  Oh, dear.  I believe that was a brick,now a three cornered brick. I look back on these times with tears because it wasn't too long before my husband had to turn the Murray up on its backside.
   "Gotta replace these blades."
   I gasped.  I'd been very bad.  Running over random things had become my habit. I knew I had to mend my ways.  And I was much more careful in the following weeks.
   Of course, old habits come to the fore, and it wasn't too many seasons later when my husband looked at the dusty, grass-covered red Murray and said.  "The deck is rusting."
   "What!"  A look of horror crossed my face.  He was right.  there were actual pin holes in a few rusty spots.  Here bright red had become rusty red. "What will we do?"
    "I'll take it to work and weld it."
    "But it will be ugly!" I wailed.
    "I'll spray paint it." He replied.
    True to his word, he removed the deck, took it to work, welded it and returned the deck, a little worse for wear and carrying about fifty extra pounds of weld. Sorta like a middle aged woman.
   But the tractor motored along and I was placated.  I perfected my snatch and drive, grabbing tree limbs while in motion, and the meat slicer, a left handed circle pressed against an obstacle to get every last blade and I motored on.
   Then one day it refused to turn right.  What the heck?  I got off and inspected.  One of the front supports connected to the front wheel had broken through.  This was not good.
   "I'll just add some metal bands," my husband assured me.
   Hmmm.  How much metal can an husband add if a husband could add metal?  This was all very distressing.  But the old red lawn tractor was soon back to mowing, albeit a little leaning to the right, and a tad reluctant to turn.
  Then the tire wars began.  First one back tire.  Then the other.  Pretty soon the front two joined the melee.  I could hardly keep stocked in cans of fix-a-flat.  I could sense the end nearing.
   My son-in-law, home from Iraq at long last, stopped by the house, saw the lawn mower and, craving the homeyness of mowing after months of heat, sand, and stress, jumped on and revved up the motor.  I, distracted with the cutest little grand baby, turned my eyes from the red tractor limping about the yard.
   BOOM! Smoke poured from the pitiful engine and my son-in-law hopped off.  The tractor moved no more.  Sigh.  Thus ends my run with the best lawn tractor I ever possessed. Sniff.  Where's the tissues?