Stout Hearted and Enthusiastic

“With stout hearts, and with enthusiasm for the contest, let us go forward to victory.”

Viscount Montgomery, to his troops on the eve of the D-Day invasion, which was not delayed by rain.

First there was this:

peter fonda

Then there was this:


Now, there is this:


A lesser man might assume that the fact that his former mower tried to kill him, leading to the costly (but extremely exciting) purchase of a brand spankin’ new authentic JD tractor – combined with the delivery of the said new mower in the middle of what would appear to be the heretofore unknown Juniorvanian monsoon season, making the actual riding or use of said mower hazardous and/or silly – is evidence that there is a spiteful God in the heavens bent on destroying all joy on earth.

Of course we – I – couldn’t entirely pass up the opportunity to climb aboard and live the John Deere experience. Some related observations:

  1. When you drop a few g’s on a garden tractor, and everybody in the room knows you’re paying more than a bit extra for this equipment because of the green and yellow paint job and the nameplate affixed to it, it seems to me that the dealer ought to be required – by law, mind you, not just moral obligation – to provide the purchaser with a logo-emblazoned cap. I’m just sayin’ that I’m going to look like a dork sitting up there on that yellow seat with no cap on. I’m supposed to buy my own damn hat, too?
  2. The folk who were charged with the responsibility of authoring the “Operator’s Manual” for this piece of machinery truly missed their calling, and it’s obvious. Rather than being stuck churning out dry technical user’s manuals, they ought to be in Hollywood crafting the latest teenage horror-thriller, mass-murderer on the loose with some sort of sharp implementIMG_2957 scarefest. Seriously, the first five pages of this manual are essentially a laundry list of the myriad of ways in which you can evidently maim, crush, kill, disfigure, or explode yourself, and the many calamities that might be visited upon either you or your property by way of fire, blunt force trauma, asphyxiation or chemical accident. One of the many warning decals on the side of the thing depicts some poor unfortunate stick man being pelted – simultaneously, mind you – in the face, legs and balls with various missiles propelled at high speed from the mower discharge unit; an ominous warning indeed. Having spent about a half an hour getting through the litany of burns, fractures, amputations and puncture wounds that threaten to afflict an inattentive or careless user of this device, I found myself thinking that a human being would have to be something approaching batshit insane to saddle up on this rolling meat grinder and go for a ride. Incidentally, this is much the same I way that I feel about horses, and I haven’t even seen an operator’s manual for one of those. About the only indignity that you cannot visit upon your body through the use of this tractor is “accidental irradiation”. So listen up, John Deere designers: you need to find a way to work in the potential for improperly shielded plutonium to be exposed, and then you’ll really have something badass. A cynic might even suggest that the conflict in Afghanistan could be quickly won by delivering fertilizer and pallets of garden tractors to the Taliban but holding back on the manuals; within a couple of weeks during the rainy season, the inevitably mounting casualties would force an end to hostilities. Bring the boys back home: mowers for the military!
  3. It has a cruise control. Seriously. For a moment, I found myself regretting that we did not go with the X360 – five position tilt steering is standard on that one. How long are people spending on these things, and how far are they travelling?
  4. Top Juniorvanian mathematicians, engineers and technical advisors are now hard at work devising a plan of attack for the initial attempt at mowing. The plan being contemplated needs to take into account a number of factors, including the complex three-dimensional geometry of the local topography, not to mention the many landscaping features (trees, shubs, gardens) that – for the moment, anyway – are growing happily throughout the target area. Assuming some degree of primacy in this complicated calculus, however, is the urgent need to avoid a continuation of the embarrassingly erratic manner in which the task was previously attempted by a hapless operator employing vastly inferior equipment. The eyes of the world are upon us; what is needed is disciplined, effective and efficient husbandry – cultivated cultivation, if you will. The top-flight, highly talented (not to mention brave) pilot for this most important mission is, accordingly, being trained in a secret facility using the latest high-tech tools and simulators to prepare for combat with the lawn.

Your faithful correspondent will, of course, post an update on the first mowing. Weather permitting.

One Tractor, With All The Fixins

Going from a one-and-a-half storey house with a shared driveway and a lawn that could be re-sodded with sprigs of parsley to the sprawling pastoral beauty of Juniorvania was bound to mean that a much more substantial portion of our lives was going to be consumed by mowing. We were, accordingly, excited to obtain (in addition to the lands and structures of Juniorvania) the riding mower allegedly used by the premises’ former owners to care for the grounds.

This is what it looked like when we took possession:

People's Lawn Tractor

It had no battery and the mower deck (not attached to the tractor in the picture above) was rusted clean through. Other than that, it was ready to go. Obviously, the machine was going to need some repairs. Thus did I take it upon myself to begin a refurbishing project; I should have known to turn back once I experienced the ignominious beginning previously detailed in this space. Instead of quitting, I turned to that most informative of documents, the owner’s manual, for direction and inspiration.


Once I waded my way through the tractor’s book of words, though, I was able to identify the parts necessary to magically transmute the thing from an inert piece of rusting junk into a dynamic and impressive piece of lawn grooming equipment. It made me happy to think I could do it myself and not call the best lawn care company in Louisville, KY for once.  I drew my credit card and headed for a telephone. Replacement parts were ordered. These arrived last weekend and, as I have described, the ensuing repair job became one of my most terrifying adventures. What follows is a photo essay about the repair attempt; these photos have been rendered all the more poignant as they document life in those simple, carefree days before The Wheelie; before an inanimate piece of gardening equipment began to make serious attempts on my life.

Upon arriving home from the Sears outlet, I removed the packages from my car and excitedly inspected the new booty. What red-blooded Canadian man wouldn’t like to receive a package like the one pictured below? There really couldn’t be a much happier label to affix to a cardboard box. Filled with acid! Corrosive! But wait, there’s more: poison! If you added the prospect of fire or explosion, you’d have yourself a little Disneyland in a box as far as most guys are concerned.

Poison, Corrosive Acid. Cool.

One battery, installed in its (plastic) anti-acid, poison-proof and corrosion resistant battery basket. I had to find a couple of random nuts and bolts in the Toolbox of Infinite Variety to secure the leads to the battery terminals. I was excited to quickly locate a couple of fasteners that would nicely handle the job. I have memorialized this moment with a photograph, as it would be the last success of my day.

Tractor Battery.

I never thought that I would ever have a box that had, among its contents, two mandrells; even more shocking, therefore, that I would choose to actually open it.

A big box.

Open Box.

Hmmmmmm. I’m starting to think that this is not where the mower blade assembly gets installed. Nevertheless, you can’t work on a vehicle without opening the hood. It’s against the law.

Work begins.

The Great Fixini advises that one should commence every repair job – no matter what the nature of the problem, the equipment, tools or dangers involed – in the same fashion: kneeling in prayer.

The Great Fixini

I have never operated a socket wrench in circumstances that did not involve some amount of resultant blood and I was definitely working up a sweat. You can be certain that there were tears.

Tears of...

My extensive exhortations to the Great God of Lawn and Garden Care must have fallen on deaf supernatural ears, as they evidently failed to drive out the demons interfering with the installation process and possessing the deck assembly. The demons manifested themselves – initially – in some repeated difficulty with installing the deck completely and correctly. They then turned their attention to making the whole damn thing hang off the bottom of the tractor on an angle that could only be accurately described as “rakish” and effectively thereby ensuring that any attempt at actually cutting the grass with this equipment would produce the kind of results usually confined to films featuring the Three Stooges. Nevertheless, I decided to take the People’s Lawn Tractor for it’s maiden voyage.


The great artist begins applying paint to his virgin canvass. A swath is born.


This may very well have been the last picture taken of Your Hero, had the Fates had their way and assassinated me in the course of The Wheelie.

The First Swath.

Sadly, there were no photojournalists present to document the balance of the weekend’s events. We must, therefore, rely upon an artist’s conception of The Wheelie:

The Wheelie