Bill Caraher | 

I have this fantasy about writing a book about my experiences in a small town in North Dakota. I know that someone has already written that book. I also know that it’s a useful fantasy to have while walking the dogs, changing my truck’s oil, and mowing the lawn.

The funny thing about mowing the lawn is that when I do it, I think about other times that I’ve mowed other lawns. The last few weeks, I’ve been thinking of this late-1970s Lawn-Boy mower that my Dad had when we were growing up. It was a 2-cycle engine, which meant that it ran on a gas-oil mix. It also produced a charming 2-cycle smell. At the time, I didn’t think much about that, but, now it makes sense to use a 2-cycle engine in a lawnmower. They offer good a power-to-weight ratio from fewer parts especially when running in their sweet spot. All I knew as a kid was that the smell was annoying, and I had to remember which gas can in the garage had the gas-oil mix. 

A quick search on eBay suggests that the mower was a Lawn-Boy 7025.

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The worst thing about the mower was it was a side-bagger. The grass filled a bag that dangled off the mower’s right side. The bag was tubular (but not in a cool, surfer way), and it clogged pretty regularly especially when the grass was wet or when the sweet gum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua) dropped their leaves.

It also meant that you had to find ways to move around the trees and little suburban gardens in our yard while keeping the bag side of the mower away from these obstacles. It was not acceptable to rake the impatiens with the bag, and there were few things more frustrating than catching the bag on a tree. On the other hand, mowing the lawn with a side bagger did push me to think about how to navigate this teenage chore in such a way that I could mow the grass as constantly as possible while keeping all obstacles to my left.


Bill Caraher is the editor of North Dakota Quarterly and is thinking about mowing the lawn later today.

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