Impressions: Mowing tips – for when winter’s long gone

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By Johnny Teglas

I fired up the little red lawn mower.
All it took was three pulls. That’s because last fall I took measures to ensure the 20-inch push machine I bought in 2001 would be with me through another mowing season.
First, I emptied the gas tank. Then I changed the oil. And, finally, I installed a new spark plug before storing it in a corner of the garage.
All that was left for me to do on that sunny afternoon was to make sure the bolt holding the blade was tight, pour in a good swig of fresh gasoline, push the little prime bulb three times and start pulling on the cord.
The first yank got me nothing. The second produced a cough and whiff of smoke.
The third brought the engine to life.
Ahh, spring!
After letting her run for five minutes, I shut her down. One pull fired her right up again. I let go of the automatic engine brake lever, and she went quiet.
Afterward, I repeated the process with my weed whacker.
All of the winter’s rain and snow had turned the yard into a scruffy-looking place, don’t you know.
A couple of pulls on my green weed-whacking machine produced a successful high-pitched, two-cycle scream.
Five minutes later I hit the kill switch, satisfied my two tools of choice were ready.
While the weed whacker cooled down, I turned my attention back to my little old mower.
A 9/16 wrench assured me all the major contact points along the wheels were snug and secure.
Then I surveyed the front yard. I picked up and tossed a few stones. Otherwise, all I had to worry about were some “Aggie bombs” left over from my 16-year-old golden retriever’s quick trips to “go” during the snowy season.
I pulled on my cleated shoes, fired up the mower and within 30 minutes transformed the clumpy expanse into a smooth-as-silk emerald showplace.
Kimberly even mentioned how nice the house looked with its freshly cropped curb appeal.
I eyed the back yard … where I like to spend most of mowing time in prayer. It needed more work before I could venture back there with my little red tool.
Since dinner time was nearing — and I was cooking — I put it off for another day.
When I finally get ready to tackle that three-quarters of an acre, I’m going to do it right.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean I intend to mow on an artistic diagonal. Nor do I plan to do anything fancy.
My thoughts are on my safety, my family’s safety and my neighbors’ children’s safety.
Did you know that thousands of adults and youngsters are injured each year by lawn mowers? Unfortunately, I know a friend whose son lost a leg when he was a preteen because he slipped off a riding mower that then rolled over him.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and American Society of Plastic Surgeons have posted some important tips on their websites.
“Power lawn mowers are dangerous adult tools, but many children, and sometimes adults unfortunately, see them as toys,” said ASPS president Dr. John Canady. “Physicians of this coalition often repair these heart-wrenching injuries, and it’s our duty to help people avoid these accidents in the first place.”
The organizations offer the following tips to help prevent lawn mower-related injuries:
Children should be at least 12 years old before they operate any lawn mower and 16 years old for a ride-on mower.
Children should never be passengers on ride-on mowers.
Always wear sturdy shoes while mowing — not sandals.
Young children should be at a safe distance.
Pick up stones, toys and debris first from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.
Always wear eye and hearing protection.
Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released.
Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary — always look for others behind you when you do.
Start and refuel mowers outdoors — not in a garage.
Refuel with the motor turned off and cool.
Blade settings should be set by an adult only.
Wait for blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel roads.
I suspect I am being a wee bit premature in looking forward to weekly walks behind my little red machine. While the weather forecast seems quite “springy,” I’m inclined to believe we’ve yet to see the last of Old Man Winter.
Once he IS long gone, I’ll lace up my cleats and tackle the yard in earnest.