Stretch the Life of Your Mower by Giving Him a Name

by Joe Plemon on April 21, 2010

Pull-n-Push
Creative Commons License photo credit: gfpeck

I realize that the best way to stretch the life of your mower is to treat him right. But for those of us who are less than meticulous about equipment maintenance, naming him works pretty well. Read on for the story of Lazarus the Lawn Mower.

The Purchase

When Mr. McCarver, owner of McCarver’s Lawn Mowers and Small Engine Repair, placed the green mower in my new 1990 Silhouette van, he polished it with a shop towel and solemnly addressed me, “Now you need to understand that this mower is made for mowing lawns, not yards. You DO understand, don’t you?."

“I’m sorry," I stuttered. “But what is the difference between a yard and a lawn?"

Mr. McCarver gripped the mower tightly as if he might take it back. His voice quivered slightly as he patiently explained, “A lawn is a smooth turf, free of sticks and other debris. A yard is whatever one grows or mows. You ARE going to use this machine for a lawn, aren’t you?"

I knew that I had better agree if I was going to get him to loose his grip, so I murmured, “Sure. A lawn it will be."

He eyed me suspiciously, but slowly released the mower and handed me the receipt. I jumped in my van and drove away before he changed his mind, but I knew that I was not the type to manicure my yard before mowing it. I silently prayed that Mr. McCarver would never come checking on me.

First Few Years

Still, I tried. The first few years I picked up the big sticks before mowing, and, per Mr. McCarver’s instructions, I even ran all the fuel out of it before storing it in the basement each winter.

But then one winter I sort of forgot. Well, not actually forgot. I just decided that my basement was crowded and maybe leaving it under the deck wouldn’t be a bad idea for just one winter. That next spring it started the first pull. “Maybe", I mused, “that smarty McCarver doesn’t know everything."

It was that same spring when I decided that it would be much easier to grind up the sticks with the mower than go to all the trouble of picking them up. I still glanced around to make sure McCarver wasn’t spying on me, but I finished mowing my yard (definitely not a lawn) and felt quite proud of myself.

Old Green Dies

Thus began a new era in the life of my mower: I started calling him “Old Green" and I left him outside every winter and mowed sticks whenever I wanted. Still, he kept running, year after year. Because the volume of his roar increased gradually, I didn’t really notice or care. Josh, my oldest son, noted one advantage of having Old Green on the job was how he blocked the sound of the passing trains.

Then, one year, Old Green started showing his age. His deck had developed rust spots and the blade was permanently rusted onto the shaft. Feeling a tad of compassion, I started putting a washtub over him when he was not working.

It was that same year that Josh (the son who had made snide remarks about Old Green) called. “Dad, my lawn mower is dead. Can I borrow yours?"

Although I thought he owed Old Green an apology, I consented. “Sure, come get him. Just treat him right." I realized that I sounded strangely like McCarver, who had long ago closed his shop and moved to the country.

An hour later, Josh was on the phone again, “Dad, I hate to tell you this, but Old Green just quit. He made a loud noise and then stopped dead. I can’t even pull the rope."

“Sounds like he is done for." I said. “Roll him out to the curb. If no one grabs him, the trash man will." I hung up the phone with a lump in my throat. Old Green was finally dead. I went shopping for a new lawnmower, but somehow none of those shiny new ones seemed right, so I returned home empty handed.

Resurrection

Two weeks later Josh called again. “Dad, you won’t believe this. Old Green sat there all this time and no one picked him up. So, just out of curiosity, I pulled the rope and he started right up!"

“Well then, bring him back home." I began to grin. That was the day we started calling him Lazarus.

Lazarus made his homecoming in fine fashion. He started right up, roared loudly and finished my entire lawn without stopping. This is a good time to mention Lazarus motto: “Once I start, don’t stop me or I won’t start again." Those were his terms and I respected them.

When Lazarus started getting snagged on some of my smaller lawn bumps, (sorry..YARD bumps) I thought something was seriously wrong with him, but a closer examination revealed that I had hit so many roots that his nose was bent downward. No problem. I turned him upside down and hammered his nose back upward. It was a heady thing for me to be doing bodywork on a lawn mower and Lazarus, with his new nose job, felt so spunky he roared smoothly over the yard like he was new. However, I started noticing that the grass and the ground up sticks were shooting up and hitting me. Those rust spots on the deck had become cancerous. Out came the duct tape. I applied several long strips which didn’t stick all that well to the grimy deck, but succeeded in deflecting the debris stream from shooting directly at me.

Sometime before the season ended, Lazarus decided that his safety bar (the thing that is supposed to kill the engine when you let go of it) didn’t really need to work. This apparent malfunction was no surprise to those of us who already knew his motto.

Lazarus’ last season

The following spring, I rolled him out from under the deck, inspected the frayed duct tape and pulled the rope. Twice. With last year’s gasoline in him. And Lazarus responded with his familiar roar. “I am ready for another season," he screamed as the neighborhood dogs wailed their disapproval.

Lazarus did fine that first mowing, but on his second time out, he let loose a high pitched screech before stopping altogether. Smoke rolled from him and the pull rope would not budge. I trudged back in the house and gave Janice the bad news, “I think Lazarus’ motor has locked up. I guess he is really gone this time." There he sat for the rest of the day, right where he died. Occasionally I would go try the rope, but it wouldn’t budge. Finally, at dusk, I concluded that he was really dead, so I went to push him out of the front yard. On a whim, I pulled the rope one more time and Lazarus bellowed to life, scattering the birds from all nearby trees. I was so happy that I mowed the rest of the yard in the dark.

I used him about a dozen more times, but eventually his deck cancer spread, the duct tape wouldn’t hold and I needed safety goggles (a hockey mask would have been better) to protect me from the constant barrage of sticks and debris. Lazarus was getting dangerous. It was a question by Jonathan, my youngest son, that actually cinched his retirement, “Dad, what are you going to do when Lazarus’ engine falls through the deck while you are mowing? His shut-off doesn’t work you know." For just a moment my mind formed the image of a screaming engine, blade attached, breaking free from the rest of the mower and chasing me around the yard like the Tasmanian Devil.

Putting Lazarus to rest

I am sure there was resignation in my voice as I took a deep breath and responded, “Jonathan, you make a good point. It is time to put Lazarus to rest."

I parked Lazarus in the basement, telling myself that I would use him for parts. But because all of his parts are rusted together or rusted through, I knew I was just kidding myself. Still, who knows? I bet if I asked him, he would bellow, roar and spew sticks. What else would you expect from a mower named Lazarus?

Epilogue

I eventually gave Lazarus to a handy man who promised to recycle whatever usable parts he still had. My current mower is a used green one (very similar to Lazarus) that I paid $50 for. Does this one have a name? Not yet, but once he earns one I will gladly tab him with it.

I have a hunch that giving him a name will extend his life an extra five years.

Have you ever given your lawnmower a name? How about a car? Do you think it lasted longer after being named?

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Beagle April 21, 2010 at 7:12 am

This is the best post I’ve read in weeks! Nice job.

My mower was bought new and is only three years old, so it might be way too early to come up with a name, but I’m going to start thinking of one. I do have a snowblower that was handed down from my dad that’s probably about 25 years old now, so even though I am done with it for the year, I’ll have to think of a name for it to keep ‘er running for a few extra years.

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Chuck April 21, 2010 at 7:24 am

Joe,

Thanks for this great story this morning. It had me laughing.

One of my tractors has a name. It’s Ol’ Blue. Blue was my grandpa tractor. It means a lot to me to have and use it. Hopefully next year Ol’ Blue will get retired to a more leasure life and get nice spa treatment.

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Chuck April 21, 2010 at 7:41 am

I also have a YARD not a lawn. And have the habit of running over whatever will fit under the mower deck when it comes to sticks.

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joeplemon April 21, 2010 at 7:55 am

@Money Beagle,
That snow blower needs a name! He (she) will respond with a new “jauntiness”. And undoubtedly stay on the job for a few more years.

@Chuck,
Glad to help you start your day with a laugh!

Ol’ Blue … now we’re talking! That is a great name; one I am sure your grandpa would be proud of. I bet she is looking forward to the life of leisure and spa treatments!

About the sticks – grass is no challenge…and boring. Lazarus enjoyed seeing what he could grind up and spit out.

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jan April 21, 2010 at 9:41 am

Even though I know Lazarus’s story by heart, it still made me laugh out loud.

Josh always knew when Laz was working on the yard~he could hear him at his house~~two blocks away!

May he rest in peace.

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Bryan Sr April 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm

This was a great story. Make me laugh so hard I had tears. My Yard mower is the same, runs over whatever is put in his path. Now you make me want to walk the yard first in and attempt to turn it into a lawn. Makes me think I should even change the oil.
Very nice story.

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joeplemon April 21, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Bryan Sr.
Sounds to me like your mower needs a name. But be careful…mowers with male names enjoy grinding up sticks…its a testosterone thing. But if you name her “Lily” or “Buttercup” she will expect a manicured lawn before she consents to working.
By the way, what does “change the oil” mean?

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Guy G. April 21, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Hey Joe,
That was a hilarious story. I’m going to forward it to my dad because he’d really appreciate your hesitation in getting rid of something that ‘still works just fine.’
We’ve named my wife’s 97 civic Bibi Neworth after the actor. Don’t ask me why, it was her doing.
My little black ’08 civic is named Shaniqua – Thought that sounded like a good Jamaican ladies sprinter’s name. And I drive her like it were a sprinter too. May not get the same life span you squeezed out of Lazarus, but for now I’m enjoying the peppiness.

Thanks again for the good read,
Guy

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Len Penzo April 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Great story, Joe!

I had a similar experience, only it was with my barbecue. I had it for many many years and it was truly difficult finally letting go.

The wife had to treat me with kid gloves, but she finally (and lovingly) convinced me to finally part ways with my old friend.

That was a tough day.

(By the way, I have a yard too.)

All the best,

Len
Len Penzo dot Com

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joeplemon April 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm

@Guy,
I hope your dad appreciates the story of Lazarus. Anyone who hangs on to whatever still “works fine” is my kind of people. Good job naming your cars! Just keep in mind that if Shaniqua some day becomes less peppy, it’s OK to give her a new name. She will understand.

@Len,
I must confess that I thought of you as I posted this story…it just seemed like something you might enjoy. My condolences about parting company with your old friend. When things get really tough like that, it is good to have a wife who empathizes.

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Jason @ Redeeming Riches April 22, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Great story Joe!! Love the name change to Lazarus!!! Sounds like you got your money’s worth out of ol’ Laz!

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joeplemon April 22, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Jason,
Thanks. Lazarus definitely gave us our money’s worth!

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Money Reasons April 22, 2010 at 5:55 pm

LOL, I have a similar mower story too, he’s made an appearance in a few of my blogs in the past. I call him “Mean Green”. Because of his color and because of the fact that he’s always breaking on me. He was good for the first 6 years, but since then… Currently, this is the 12 year that he and I work together (lol).

I have promised in my previous blog posts to do a story on him, but haven’t got around to it yet 😉

Great story!!!

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joeplemon April 22, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Money Reasons,
12 years! I am impressed! My guess is that he would have taken permanent retirement years ago if you hadn’t named him. Here is wishing you and “Mean Green” many (a few?) more years working together.

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Guy G. April 22, 2010 at 11:14 pm

@Joe
I got home today and noticed my landlord must have cut the grass. Yes, I rent, I’m still working on my tips on budgeting and paying off some young adult stupidity:)
Anyway, it reminded me of this post and that his back yard is definitely a yard. Big time sticks, and there’s still a fair bit of gravel that washed down from the plaza behind us. I guess it they had a huge rain storm when they were resurfacing the parking lot and there was a mini river running through our yard. Now, there’s a few gravel patches our landlord sprinkles grass seed over without much success:)
Good times,
Guy

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joeplemon April 23, 2010 at 9:02 am

Guy,
Hey. It is good to know the difference between a yard and a lawn. The irony for me is that I now actually have a pretty good lawn. We replaced our driveway and front sidewalk a couple of years ago, totally destroying whatever grass was in our yard and necessitating new fertilizer and seed and (presto) … a lawn! Lazarus wouldn’t know what to think!

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Guy G. April 24, 2010 at 10:16 pm

haha, well done.
The plaza behind us put up a fence along our driveway last fall and put in sod along an 80’X15′ patch between our driveway and the fence. What the snow plow didn’t rip up (much less than my wife and I anticipated) is way greener than the rest of the ‘yard’ and it’s never really had time to ‘mature.’

Talk to you soon,
Guy

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Shelley March 24, 2012 at 11:38 am

Very fun and inspiring post. We have a ’95 Mercury Sable with 320K miles on it. We have called her the Green Goddess ever since she cheerily turned over 300K while carrying us and our five children, buddy-buckled in the back seat, across the state. She has been rear-ended as well as rolled backwards down the driveway, across the street, and into a fire hydrant as well as the neighbor’s bushes by our 10 year old who didn’t know that she would pull right out of park and into reverse with a light touch while in park with the engine killed. Her windshield is cracked, inside door panels are missing, one door is rather crunched up by the fire hydrant, and the power steering is now all but dead. But she still gets a pat on the dash and an “atta girl,” every time we crank her up and take take off in her. At this point, if she died in the middle of the interstate, we would honor her as a fallen hero and beloved family member. She served us faithfully while we saved up for the gorgeous conversion van that usually gets us from here to there these days. Long live the Green Goddess!

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Joe Plemon March 24, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Loved your Green Goddess story! I noticed that you said your gorgeous conversion van USUALLY gets you from here to there. It sounds to me like she is contending for her own name … jealous, no doubt, of your beloved Green Goddess. These things can be testy though — Green Goddess could develop her own jealousy, so maybe you should hold off naming your van as long as Green Goddess lives.

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Shelley March 24, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Thank you! The “usually,” though, referred to the times when we crank up the old girl and take her for a spin now and then so she won’t get stiff. But we don’t ask her to tote all those youngsters anymore. She’s in a sort of semi-retirement now. The conversion hasn’t really earned a name yet…

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