In the last half of 2012, when the world was coming to an end and everything I owned was falling apart, I experienced one loss that brought me great joy. I was mowing the lawn and hit a patch of thick grass near the property line by Mrs. Dim’s house–Mrs. Dim waters her grass almost every day, even when it rains–and the mower engine died and would not start again. It may sound strange that I was glad to see my lawnmower die, but this breakdown gave me the chance to buy something I had wanted for several years: a reel lawnmower.
For the uninitiated, a reel lawnmower operates on neither gasoline nor electricity. It is powered only by the strength of a human body. As the mower is pushed forward, the turning of the wheels sends a reel spinning, and that reel consists of several sharp blades that cut the grass.
It was late in the mowing season, and none of the stores in town had reel mowers in stock. I had to order my mower online and wait a week for it to arrive. By that time, the grass had gotten pretty high, and the first two mowings were hard to do. After that the mowing got easier, and I loved my reel mower.
A reel mower is quieter than the typical gasoline lawn mower. One can actually hear the birds sing while cutting grass with a reel mower. A reel mower also does not burn any gasoline. Less noise pollution and less air pollution-what’s not to love? Leaving more gasoline supply for other purposes, I saw the price of gasoline drop a nickel each week for a month once I started using my reel mower. Of course I take all the credit, and imagine what would happen to the price of gasoline if everyone used a reel mower. Besides, my doctor wanted me to get more exercise, and mowing with a reel mower was just the ticket for more exercise.
Already I had been raking leaves instead of blowing them. Already I had been using a hand tool to trip the grass along the sidewalk instead of using a power tool. Now I had the best improvement of all: a reel lawn mower that was quiet, energy efficient, and provided me with weekly exercise. Since the reel mower was not hard to start, I didn’t mind taking a break for rest and a drink of water while mowing. I didn’t mind mowing different parts of the property on different days instead of rushing to get the week’s mowing done on the same day. I didn’t mind mowing at all, except for the times that the neighbors got out their loud smelly mowers while I was enjoying the day with my reel mower.
My mother and father said they remembered using a reel mower when they were young. Mrs. Dim said the same thing. Clearly, none of them understood why I would take a step backwards in technology. They could not grasp the goodness of a quiet mower that had no carbon footprint. Yes, I was smug about my reel mower.
Of course no change is perfectly good. The reel mower jammed when it hit twigs that the gasoline-powered mower could effortlessly grind to pieces. Various bolts had to be adjusted every two or three weeks to keep the reel mower operating efficiently, and the instructions that came with the mower were not very clear about what to adjust. I had to teach myself by trial and error. Worst of all, the handle of the reel mower was made from thin metal. Before the reel mower was a year old, the handle had broken, and I had to fix it and reinforce it to have a working mower.
The next summer, the handle broke again, and this time no repair I tried would hold. For a while I struggled to make the reel mower work, but meanwhile the grass was getting longer. Finally, I threw in the towel, drove to the hardware store, and bought another loud gasoline-consuming monster. I’m sure that Mrs. Dim was happy to hear the mighty roar once again. My weekly mowing takes less time, even if it does not provide as much beneficial exercise. But I miss my reel mower, and someday I hope to find a way to get a good strong handle attached to it again.