The Lawnmower Fighter, Episode 2: Saving Face

Behold, The Bull

“Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports … all others are games.” -Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway, a known bullfighting enthusiast, also said,

“Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death…”

Needless to say, old Ernie would identify with the daunting challenge I faced in taming The Bull. One wrong move, one sign of weakness, and the blazing red beauty would use all 7.0 lb/ft of its mowing torque to shear my face clean off. Art indeed.

Now, which arrows to follow?

This was no time for fear. On geeky computer blogs, much is made of the unboxing of a new product, be it a computer, the newest iPhone or a home media hub. Yet none of those products can sling a sharpened blade with the ferocity of a UH-1 Huey thundering its rotors through the skies of Vietnam as “Flight of the Valkyries” blares over the PA. The Bull was more worthy of unboxing photos than any electronic gizmo.

I cut with the precision of a neurosurgeon as I dissected the tape, careful not to cut into The Bull. Legend has it the beast’s blood is a highly corrosive acid capable of burning through the hull of a spaceship. Or maybe that was the creature in Alien. I get confused.

In rodeo, the bull waits in his buck chute, the weight of an unwanted rider on his back. All he wants is to break free into the ring, to buck, to run – to throw that rider. In order to instill the same sort of bloodlust in The Bull upon unboxing, I pointed him toward the unruly grasses that would soon be his enemy.

The Bull, yearning to break free

Once the mower was assembled, it was time for oil and fuel. I’m no rocket surgeon, but it seemed like The Bull was raring to go with or without them. I could feel the seething power coursing through its metal exoskeleton. I could feel its singular desire to shred the grasses to mulch. Still, if I wanted to keep my face where it belonged, it was best to play by the rules.

If only I knew where to put it.

Before gassing it up, I took a quick glance at the manual. I know, a Real Southern Man needs no manual, but still…face. I guess it made sense that the battery for the ignition system wouldn’t be charged in the box. No big deal. Just an hour or so of charging, and The Bull and I could go tame the vast wilds of Chelsea, Alabama. But it wasn’t an hour. Or two hours. It was 24. At least 24 hours of charging before I could unleash The Bull. But it’s already seen the grass!

I used the charging time to seek a little help from higher…and lower powers. I’ve prayed long and hard about my concerns of a mower uprising, but I’ve determined that the one true God has seen fit to allow me this little slice of Job-dom – for strengthening me or some such. So, I decided to appeal to lesser gods. With a lowercase “g.” I petitioned the Tiki gods. Specifically, I talked to the Tiki torches on my back porch. Desperate times and all that…

I think this one is Kolomai...

...and this is Lester.

As I suspected, citronella torches don’t have much to say. And if they have any power at all – besides fragrant mosquito-repelling power – they made their point clear that they thought I should steer clear of mowing, as it began raining shortly after consulting them.

Several days of rain followed, and both The Bull and I grew impatient in the waiting. This is Alabama, after all. One good spring rain, and your lawn can go from needing a little trim to “Oh, sweet lord, I have to buy a bush hog!” overnight. Finally, the day came for the inaugural mow.

A little gas...

I was ready to turn the key and fire up the engine.


Where the hell was the key? I frantically scoured the garage looking, not even believing myself that this had happened. I finally found it.

Yep. That's the key. In a trash can.

After retrieving the key from the trash -don’t even ask me how it got there – I had finally arrived at the moment of truth. I said a prayer. A single bead of sweat formed on my brow. I turned the key.

The resulting sound was pure internal combustion music. I pushed forward on the Personal Pace handle, and The Bull eased forward onto the lawn. The first strip of freshly mown grass was perfection: high and tight, like a government issue ‘do. I turned and cut a parallel path, easing back on the throttle and letting gravity do the work. I lined up the wheels in the tracks of the previous pass.

I was right to hope! When treated with respect and given purpose, the beast could be tamed. The Bull and I were working as one – a seamless union of man and machine working toward a common goal. There would be no Mowpocalypse. The machines weren’t rebelling. They weren’t defying my authority. I simply hadn’t owned good enough machines before. There’s an old saying about the right tool for the job. The Bull was the right tool. I turned to make a third pass and something caught my eye.

Was that a…a piece of the mower?

The Mowpocalypse begins.

Son of a…

Join Wayne next week for his continuing lawnmower misadventures. Or you can follow his inanity on Twitter.


  1. For a Nazi-Perfect Lawn, Try Scissors | Real Southern Men - June 22, 2011

    […] or a night out at the movies there, and I wasn’t home much. Back then, there was no need for the mower to plot against me; I was never there to actually use […]

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