Why I Break Lawnmowers


Every summer my friend Mike, a small engine mechanic, repairs my lawn mowers half a dozen times.  Ten days ago he delivered a mower back to the farm and I cut grass for only an hour before breaking it again.

The problem is rocks. Big rocks and little rocks, ledges and boulders. My land is covered with them.

Whenever I mow, I quarter the ground beforehand, scouting for danger. For years I kept a wheelbarrow handy and when it was filled with stones pushed it, wobbling and puffing, to the woods to dump. Then Mike found me a little cart to pull behind the mower. This worked well but I had to be careful not to pile the rocks too deep or the mower would not move. Now D has allowed me to use his ATV, which is much more powerful.

Fifteen minutes of rock-picking on a twenty-foot by twenty-foot section of future “lawn” yields a bounty of rocks and broken tree roots (the last reminders of the logging back in 2005). The work has a quiet rhythm: rock-pick, mow; rock-pick, mow.


If I don’t have a cart readily at hand I pile the rocks on any visible surface. There are cairns everywhere around the farm.


When I have an extra ten minutes I drive around and clean them away.

I figure someday the ground must be clean and safe for mowing. But that day is not yet. No matter how carefully I try, I’ll be mowing along while listening to hymns and — bang! 

It only takes one.

Mike says he may not be able to weld my scarred old mower deck any further. I don’t have money for a new used mower. I hope I can keep this tired battle horse going through the summer.

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