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gophers beware

I recently started mowing with a push reel mower.

Wait, wait … come back … I swear this isn’t a yard maintenance blog. Actually, I’m not sure what kind of blog this is. One that references pantslessness and the random musings of people who don’t quite understand what copywriting is. Oh, and the shameless whoring of myself for money, in the form of constantly hawking my books.

OK, you’re free to leave.

For the ONES of you who stayed … I recently started mowing my lawn with a push reel mower. The honest answer to “why in the hell?” was, initially, because I was broke and didn’t want to shell out gas money for something I was going to have to sweat over. Of course, that doesn’t begin to answer the question of “why do you even HAVE a push reel mower?” To answer that, I have to explain that I am a hopeless geek who loves being slightly anachronistic, and almost always ops to go for the sort of thing you’d normally only see in movies from the ‘50s or parodies thereof.

Being a hopeless geek, I must justify my obsessions with flimsy and highly implausible rationalizations. Thank God for the Internet, which makes it possible to find such rationalizations in minutes, rather than having to wade through piles of magazines and gardening books in the public library for hours.

The rationalization I hit on is that push reel mowers are apparently “Good™.” Generally Good™, for just about everything. It’s impressive.

Environment? Good™ for it. Personal health? Good™ for it. Your grass? Good™ for it. Gophers?

Those poor little screaming bastards.

I like this whole “good for everything” bit. I can feel like I’m doing something that’s laudable, as if someone driving by might stop, congratulate me on my commitment to doing Good™ in the world, and offer me the key to something. Maybe not the city, but something big and impressive. Like a Wal-Mart.

But if I’m being honest, I have to say that my neighbor is a big part of the reason I kept using that push reel mower on Day 1.

I don’t really know my neighbor. I think his name is Dave, which you would think would be easy to remember, as it is both the name of my best friend and the name of my formerly-estranged-but-now-solidly-and-happily-available-in-my-life-father. We’ll just roll with it.

At any rate, I was busy sweating and pushing and stooping and unclogging (these things are not meant for really tall grass, trust me on this), when I hear my neighbor say, “Cool!”

There followed some brief chat about using “an old fashioned mower” in this heat, some ideas about how Good™ the mower is for EVERYTHING (except gophers), and then a big thumbs-up and a “carry on.” I carried on.

I’m easy to sucker. I admit that. All it takes is a small bit of praise and acknowledgement and you can pretty much get me to do anything. Just one of my many buttons.

So that first day I kept pushing, even though my grass was actually way too tall for using this particular style of mower, and probably should have been cut down first and then just maintained. But I “pushed” through. Heh. And in the end, I was fairly satisfied with the results. Even though it took me six hours instead of the usual one hour, and I basically mowed the whole lawn three times in one day.

For the record, I’m not insane. If it took me six hours to mow my lawn every time I did it, and all I was getting out of it was saving a few bucks, I’d drop it like the ratings of the final season of “LOST.” But now that I’ve managed to get the grass to a manageable level, it actually only takes half an hour to mow the whole yard. 45 minutes tops. And I DO get a little extra exercise out of it, safe a few bucks on gas, and keep that much more smog out of the atmosphere. Done Good™.

So I’ll probably keep using the mower. My friend Bob thinks I’m nuts, and most of the neighborhood probably thinks I’m an anachronistic freak who needs to catch up with the current century. And both of those opinions could actually have some merit. But as long as I feel good about the whole thing, why not? I’m not hurtin’ anybody but the gophers.

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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at


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