The main gear in a pollution-free mower

Ed Rood

I thought modern science had “maxed out” when they came up with the cordless electric toothbrush, but now I see rave reviews from people who own and use cordless electric lawn mowers.

Can you believe it? A lawn mower that takes no fuel, emits no noxious fumes, makes hardly any noise and you don’t have to worry about running over the extension cord. Manufacturers claim they are basically maintenance-free, but I’m sure there’s more to that than they would like to admit.

Isn’t science grand? Gee, no gas, no fumes, no noise, no pollution, no fuss – how modern can we get? Well, almost no pollution. It does take a little energy to produce electricity, which makes for a little pollution.

Actually, back when I was a kid, we had something better. We had a real pollution-free lawn mower. It had two wheels, a cutting blade, a handle and even a bag to catch the clippings. And, best of all, it had one horsepower…make that one people-power.

Yep, we had what was known then as a push mower. And that’s exactly what you did with it – PUSH! There was no engine, gasoline or electric, to get in the way or mess up the atmosphere.

Our mower was a little more modern than the neighbor’s. Instead of having cast iron wheels, our’s had hard-rubber tires and even some little hub caps. But no matter how fancy it looked, it still had to be pushed and the taller the grass got, the harder it was to push.

I believe I was 11 or 12 years old when Dad ceremoniously handed the mower over to me. At the time, I thought it was a very special event. You know, sort of a step towards manhood. I soon discovered it was a giant leap into the world of hard work.

Following a few bouts with that lawn mower, I started getting an education. I soon discovered the better I took care of it, the better it took care of me. Little things, like a drop of oil here and there and a sharper blade made my work a lot easier. But no matter how easy it got, it still was hard work.

That’s when I happened on a real miracle. It all started when a new kid moved in just across the street from us. His name was Jargo and his father owned a gas station. One thing Jargo’s dad had was a creative mind. He was especially inventive when it came to things that would make life easier for him.

One of the inventions he was proudest of was his motor-powered lawn mower. Although it lacked seriously in looks, it could cut grass with less effort than a push mower. He had constructed his power mower out of leftover parts from a variety of things –including a washing machine.

Actually, an old Maytag washing machine’s gasoline motor was the heart of his invention. It was mounted to a bracket of sheet metal welded to the mower above the cutting blades. A v-belt ran from the motor to a makeshift clutch and then around a pulley attached to one of the wheels.

The main problem with the contraption was if the operator neglected to throw the clutch at the proper time, the mower would perform much like an army tank – it would roll over anything in its path – cutting all the while.

I borrowed the mower a couple of times but after destroying my mom’s flower bed and nearly running over one of my dad’s favorite chickens, it was back to the old push mower for me.

That was a long time back. A time before pollution and exercise were major worries for all the people who spend their lives worrying about such things.

Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.