Abused lawn mower gets its fiery revenge

By Tom Gocze, BDN Staff
Posted July 18, 2009, at 2:33 a.m.

Ah, the joy of summer! The monsoon season might finally be over.

And now the grass is growing with a vigor that has heretofore never been seen by humankind.

I have been mowing in between storms and trying to stay ahead enough to make sure that mowing the lawn does not become a haying enterprise.

I suspect we all have some love-hate relationship with lawns and mowing.

I really think the lawn, or at least my mower, is feeling the same way.

Given the fact that I never clean the mower adequately after mowing (the mosquitoes seem to think I am antisocial in this regard), I regularly pop off mower belts or cause bearings to fail. Tonight the belt popped off. I headed inside before the mosquitoes or deerflies could even offer assistance. Tomorrow is truly another day.

Last week, though, I really began to think the mower was taking its true revenge. It burst into flames! Apparently, a wire got shorted out by some wet pipe insulation (I didn’t put it there, really!) and the pipe insulation caught on fire. That fire set off the oil on the bottom of the machine and fun ensued.

I took the mower over to the garden hose and put out the oil fire (kids, don’t do this!) with the hose. This is not how to put out an electrical or oil fire, but it was small enough to work.

I finished mowing the next day since the damage was nonexistent except for some smudgy pipe insulation.

That brings me to the point of the article — not anthropomorphic lawn mowers, but rather the sorry state of technology.

It is, after all, 2009 and we have to use machines that are loud, as well as a number of serpentine belts that seem to be designed at The Planned Obsolescence Institute and are not rugged enough for me not to break weekly.

Having just filed for patent No. 3 in my illustrious inventing career (note the lack of notice of Gocze inventions on the Discovery Channel), I am always thinking of what a lawn mower should be while listening to the 150-decibel mower engine or fighting the mosquitoes while repairing a belt or fire.

My perfect lawn-mowing machine is QUIET. I love quiet when it comes to lawn mowers. I have had a lot of mowers over the years — have bought expensive brands and cheapo ones, electric and battery mowers, too.

The electric mowers make a lot of sense. They can be quiet, at least compared with the gas ones. I hate the power cords. I also hate the lack of power that the battery hand mowers have. They might be great if the lawn is a tiny city lot, but I live in the coastal rainforest and have acres to mow.

So, in my fantasy world, the mower will be an electric riding machine that has some real power and is quiet. This is do-able. There are perhaps one or two that are being manufactured for about $3,000 to $4,000. I can’t afford that.

Years ago, General Electric manufactured a very utilitarian mower called the ElecTrak. It was a rugged device that did everything. They now have a cult following. I had my hands on a couple of ElecTraks years ago and found them pretty impressive. Of course, they are from 1970, so they were a little primitive for us sophisticated users in this new millennium.

So after my fire exercise last week, I got on eBay and was looking to see what was available. I found a used Ransomes electric mower that might work for my needs. It is a commercial unit that is used on golf courses and has controls and hardware that I have actually had my hands on from working with electric cars. (There really was a reason to fool around with electric cars!)

I am not sure that it will ever work, but starting with an electric mower that is of this century might give me a slight advantage.

And I know it will be quiet. Oh, did I mention I love quiet?

Now for the mosquito repellent, and a cup holder, too.

Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at www.bangordailynews.com/thehomepage.html.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/07/18/living/abused-lawn-mower-gets-its-fiery-revenge/ printed on November 28, 2014