After traveling hundreds -- yes, hundreds -- of miles while mowing the lawns of various family members, the trusty Holyoke Kubota is ready for a winter of rest. Or so it thinks. Credit: Courtesy of Karen Holyoke

Over the course of this summer (or, at least, this growing season) that just won’t end, I have spent hours perched on the spring-loaded and constantly bouncing seat of my family’s riding lawn mower, tracing patterns in always-just-too-long grass.

And for the most part, I’ve had a ball doing it. Truth be told, it’s been several years since I was the DM — designated mower — of my mom’s sprawling front and back and side and other side lawns, and I really didn’t expect my twice-weekly pains in the grass to be nearly so enjoyable. Drive enough miles on a lawn mower, I suppose, and it’s easy to convince yourself that the task you keep performing (see also: Sisyphus) is somehow more important than you ever imagined.

Even if you keep getting stuck in the mud. More on that later.

Before we get to the mud-stucking part, let’s get one thing out of the way: It is, I have learned, entirely possible (and probable, in my case) to injure yourself while driving a riding lawn mower. Now, just in case you’re chomping on your morning corn flakes as you read this column, let me assure you that I DID NOT disobey any safety rules (that I know of) and that I CERTAINLY still have (as far as I can tell) all of my fingers and toes attached to my body.

But last year, as I hot-dogged for my wife — yes, hot-dogging on a lawn mower is probably a sign that I’m still 14 years old at heart — I learned that a 50-something body is not equipped to deal with the torque that a modern, zero-turn mower can produce. For those unfamiliar with zero-turn mowers, let me describe them like this: If you push one steering handle forward while pulling the other steering handle backward, a mowing man (like myself) can spin around in infinite circles, never moving a bit. It’s kind of like riding the Tilt-A-Whirl at the Bangor State Fair, without the smell of sausage and doughboys to keep you company.

So, there I was, hot-dogging. On a mower. And then, I hit a bump, and felt my back begin to spasm. For the next three weeks, I walked around like I was 90 years old, before finally visiting my friendly neighborhood chiropractor, who told me that I had damaged my psoas muscle.

Say it with me. Slowly. “Psoas.” (Hint. The P is silent. And the “as” ought to have another “s” in it. And the straining of said muscle — the most important muscle in the body, according to at least one internet source — is just about as pleasant as the word makes it sound like.

Not one to be daunted by my own stupidity, I hopped back onto that zero-turn steed this summer, when my stepchildren aged out of mowing lawns for my mom. Me? Like I said, I’m still 14, as far as I can figure, and I thought mowing a bit of grass sounded like a great idea.

Then it rained. And rained. And rained some more. And consequently, the late-summer brown-up, during which lawns refuse to grow and decide, instead, to die off in spectacularly unspectacular hues, never happened. So I mowed. And mowed. And mowed some more.

Spend that much time on a lawn mower when the ground is so wet and you’re bound to get stuck once in a while. At least, that’s my excuse for miring the mower in the muck a couple of times during September and October. Luckily, I’ve got a good-natured neighbor who’s always willing to try out the towing straps on his wife’s ATV, so we successfully rescued the Kubota on both occasions.

And when you spend that much time on a lawn mower — after trying and failing to carve the Boston Red Sox logo into your mom’s lawn, and after dodging squirrels and other small mammals in pursuit of the perfect cut — you start thinking. And wondering.

I wonder how many miles I drive this mower every time I mow this lawn … not counting the miles the mower thinks I travel when I’m spinning the tires in the mud? I wonder if there’s any way to figure that out.

And yes, there is.

I am an occasional jogger, and a volunteer high school track coach. I have a GPS watch strapped to my wrist most of the time.

And after putting that watch to work (just set it to “bicycle” mode and push “start”) I’m happy to report that each time I mowed my mom’s lawn this summer, I traveled about 9.75 miles. (I told you: It’s a big piece of grass.)

But after several months of deep thought and endless laps around the yard, I think it’s finally time to park the Kubota for the winter. Maybe. I hope.

With that said, I’m also pretty sure that I’ve got time to get it stuck in the mud one more time before snow flies.

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...