The chore of mowing

By Don Hill

So you have to go out and mow your lawn. Well, it’s your fault. If you wouldn’t water, fertilize, thatch, aerate and put all those other chemicals on it, you probably wouldn’t have to mow. Well, maybe it would grow anyway. And why do you have a lawn at all? Oh, I thought you would never ask.

If you think it is all your idea, forget it. Records show that the Japanese wrote about sodding way back in 1159. You thought they only grew rice. Anyway, our lawn seed came mostly from England and Scotland. Immigrants brought little packets of seeds along with them. It was mostly the rich folks who had lawns because they had to have lots of people out cutting it with a scythe. That’s one of those cutters with the crooked handle. Some just put a herd of sheep out on it.

Sodded areas for sports date back to cricket around 1300. Later in the 1500s came golf, croquet and tennis. And Bowling Green was not a city; it was the green lawn for the game of bowls.

Well, so much for a little history. Anyway, folks here in America caught on to the idea of having a nice surface of grass to go along with their little white picket fence. Things really took off in 1830 when Edwin Budding invented the first lawn mower.

This was the reel type that my brother and I pushed up and down our front hillside. The mower would often have to be pushed back and forth to keep the grass from clogging the blades. As a teen, to raise a little money, I mowed the lawn for a retired businessman. They had a large lawn and about 20 beehives spaced throughout. The bees didn’t like the mower or me. Getting stung was just a part of earning 25 cents an hour.

I still have one of these reel-type mowers at the art center which I use to mow around small areas that the big mowers couldn’t reach. Where did I get such a wonderful mower? Union Hardware of course. I miss that place.

I remember some of the first power mowers were simply the same reel mower with an attached motor. It didn’t go over well.

In 1899 John Albert Burr, a Black gentleman, patented an improved rotary blade lawn mower. This push mower was designed with traction wheels and a rotary blade that wouldn’t easily get plugged up with grass clippings. He later improved it to mow closer to buildings and wall edges.

Then came the lazy man’s mower. You know the $15,000 one that folks use to mow their 10-by-10-foot lawn. Various stages and improvements have evolved into the luxurious vehicles that are driven around the lawn much as driving on the streets.

So, go on out and mow it. Enjoy the day. What!!! A dandelion!! I’ll get that sucker.

Don Hill is a resident of Seymour and has served as a volunteer at Southern Indiana Center for the Arts for more than a quarter of a century. Send comments to [email protected].