Friday, August 14, 2015

Adventures on the lawn

You know those days when you go past angry, take a right turn at crazy and force yourself to land on laughter so that no one gets murdered?

That was my yesterday, mowing my mother's massive lawn, or more accurately, trying to mow the lawn. I go there on Thursdays in the summer, so the lawn's done for the weekend. The last few weeks, my Moppets have been visiting; nieces and nephew tearing around the farm on a tiny tractor. A camera just can't capture the delight on their faces at the wheel.

Have you ever had that feeling when you're closing the door of your car and you suddenly realize, deep in your bowels, that your keys are inside? That's the frisson I had as I sat on the seat of the lawn tractor and put my hand on the key, the key that was NOT in the off position.

Yes, some little twerp, or possibly my mother, had left the key on, the life draining from the battery since it was parked.

"No problem," I thought to myself, "I'll just roll the tractor backwards, out of the shed, use my trusty jumper cables to boost the battery, and we'll be in business!"

Not so much.

Now, I'm generally a fan of safety features; my car doesn't move without the seatbelts being done up, I wear a helmet to ride my bike. But I'm not sure a safety feature that means a lawn tractor can't be rolled either forwards or backwards when the battery is dead makes much sense. There was a lot of grunting and groaning as I tried to depress the clutch/brake with one hand and push the tractor backwards out of the shed. Yes, I fell down. Twice.

So, a dead battery, the tractor deep in the shed, facing away from the door and no way to move it out. Into the shed I bring my car, open the hood and... where is the battery? I got a new car a year ago and have yet to need to boost it or use it for boosting.

There is no battery visible under the hood of my car. There's a fan-type thing, a place to put the washer fluid, many other things I don't understand and lots of heat, but no battery. It's a European car, same as my neighbour's, so I decide to look in the trunk, where his was when we boosted him a few weeks ago.

To get to the boot, I remove grocery bags, emergency equipment, a jack, washer fluid, mittens a blanket and snow brush, (see? Safety first...) only to discover the blessed battery is not in there, either!

The owner's manual is not of much assistance, but I finally figure out the battery is tucked inside a case behind a doored panel just below the windshield, on the passenger side, a lucky break because my jumper cables are not very long. I maneuver the car into the shed, as close as possible to the stupid tractor, hook up the cables, and voila, the tractor starts! It's like magic!

I figure I can leave the machine running while I remove the car, and get on with the job at hand, but safety got in the way again. There's a switch of some sort in the seat of the lawn tractor, which shuts down the engine if there's not enough weight on it. It's quite frustrating for my niece, who's not quite heavy enough yet to keep the motor running.

Two large chunks of wood wrestled from a far corner of the shed were not enough to do the trick, sadly, so I sat on that seat, bored silly, for as long as I thought it might take for the engine to restart once it was turned off. I even gave it a try after removing the jumper cables and before moving the car out of the shed, and it worked.

Once the car moved out, the stupid tractor wouldn't start, though, giving a little tiny and pathetic grinding noise before lapsing back into a sulky silence.

At this point, I'm thinking long grass might not be such a bad thing, and since I've been mowing all these years, surely Mom can deal with a scraggly lawn for a few days. She can just call the company that services the blessed vehicle.

Instead, I persevere, bring the car back in, re-hook up the cables, smash my thigh into a random piece of farm equipment nearby, curse like a sailor and sit bored and in pain for an interminable amount of time in the hope that this time, it will be enough to re-start the ding-dang lawnmower.

It worked, finally; I got out there to mow, and the tractor ran for nearly 10 minutes before it sputtered to a halt, out of gas.

Of course.

I trudge to the garage, where my mother keeps not one, but two large portable containers of gasoline for this express purpose. Both of which are, as you might have predicted, empty, without gas, useless and as they say, 'drier than a popcorn fart.'

And that's when the zen kicked in. Up to this juncture, I had been alternately determined, annoyed, bemused and angry, but I found myself, with a bruised leg, broken fingernail and an hour behind schedule, bursting into laughter. What else is there to do, really, but load the Jerrycans into the car and fill 'em up? For fifty dollars, I might add, at the nearby farm supply store where the gas is never cheap, of course.

I managed to finish the lawn and it goes without saying that when I looked in the fridge, there was not even one single solitary cold beer waiting for me as a reward.

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