Otago Daily Times

Look af­ter it and reap the re­wards

Joss Miller re­flects on his faith­ful lawn­mower.

- Joss Miller is a re­tired Dunedin lawyer.

IN our life­time we be­come at­tached to cer­tain items. De­spite liv­ing in the so­called age of con­sumerism and dis­pos­abil­ity, there is still nos­tal­gia for the old and proven.

Cars are a good ex­am­ple. It is more than 100 years since the advent of Henry Ford’s model T’s which pro­foundly trans­formed the way peo­ple lived. Not in­fre­quently beau­ti­fully main­tained ve­hi­cles from those early decades are still seen on the high­ways and by­ways of New Zealand trav­el­ling slowly but driven proudly by their own­ers. The big gas­guz­zling cars from the years of Amer­i­can pros­per­ity in the 1950s and ’60s are still in ev­i­dence, es­pe­cially at week­ends on the roads of Otago and South­land.

What I have in­creas­ingly cher­ished for 37 years is a mod­est Lawn­mas­ter lawn­mower that was man­u­fac­tured in Wis­con­sin, United States, and is pow­ered by a 3.5 HP en­gine. I pur­chased this in Te­muka in the sum­mer of 1983. This was at a time when Glenn Turner was en­ter­ing the fi­nal year or so of an im­pres­sive crick­et­ing ca­reer. Mar­garet Thatcher was bask­ing in the af­ter­math of Bri­tain’s Falk­land Is­lands mil­i­tary cam­paign, Ron­ald Rea­gan was in his first term as pres­i­dent of the United States and Rob Mul­doon reach­ing the end of his time as prime min­is­ter of New Zealand.

Dur­ing the 37 years that have elapsed since its pur­chase, this coun­try has had in the vicin­ity of 10 prime min­is­ters — in­cum­bent Jacinda Ardern was barely 2 years of age back then.

It has been tested on a num­ber of lawns of vary­ing qual­ity and con­tours. On a hot, dry sum­mer’s day it could raise a mini dust storm with the blade oc­ca­sion­ally shud­der­ing on im­pact with a sub­merged rock or tree root. Late au­tumn and win­ter could be chal­leng­ing with damp, heavy con­di­tions. The height of sum­mer was great when it skimmed ef­fort­lessly across all sur­faces.

As the years went by, start­ing the en­gine be­came in­creas­ingly chal­leng­ing. Even­tu­ally, when started, it would roar into life but it was of­ten en­veloped in a large plume of fumes and smoke which took sev­eral min­utes to dis­perse. In all prob­a­bil­ity the na­tion’s emis­sions lim­its in those days may well have been ex­ceeded.

With age there was a no­table in­crease in noise lev­els and vi­bra­tions that seemed slightly rem­i­nis­cent of a rocket poised to launch. Some­times, I felt sorry for the bees hur­riedly flee­ing daisy tops on the ap­proach of this mon­strous thresh­ing ma­chine.

How­ever, the freshly cut lawn soon at­tracted an in­flux of birds vo­ra­ciously feed­ing off the worms, grubs and other in­sects that were dis­lodged by the mower’s thun­der­ous move­ments.

In­creas­ingly, the mower seemed dated and un­re­li­able. Per­haps its time had come. Maybe it would be bet­ter to buy a bat­tery­pow­ered mower and join the green revolution. A fam­ily group con­fer­ence was con­vened but no con­sen­sus reached.

On the brink of de­cid­ing to moth­ball it, I fired it up one fi­nal time.

Sur­pris­ingly, it ac­ti­vated im­me­di­ately and aware per­haps of its im­mi­nent demise swept non­cha­lantly across the lawn with re­newed vigour and pur­pose. We toasted old faith­ful that night. A re­cent ser­vice check was car­ried out by the friendly staff at a mower shop in Dunedin. There was even a com­ment to the ef­fect it was in good nick. This raised my spir­its con­sid­er­ably. No more re­as­sur­ance was needed. The aim now is to reach 40 years.

My hum­ble ad­vice sim­ply is, don’t be quick to dis­pose. Like good wine, my lawn­mower has ma­tured. The key is reg­u­lar ser­vic­ing. Look af­ter it and who knows where the story will end. The jour­ney so far has been fas­ci­nat­ing.

Al­though I am re­luc­tant to ad­mit it, my wrist­watch is even older!

❛ My hum­ble ad­vice sim­ply is don’t

be quick to dis­pose

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