Old-Fashioned Push Mowers and Sling-Blades

Where I come from, people judge you by the way you dress and how you keep your property. Since most people never come inside your house, they form opinions about you by how well you keep (or don’t keep up) the outside of your house. We would even laugh when we rode past a property that looked like it had been unkempt for ages. Laziness was not a trait that was encouraged, so we worked hard to have a clean yard-scape. We lived in a large but a not so attractive house, so the least we could do was keep the yard clean and the grass cut. Usually I did both of those chores, because I like to clean up and make things look attractive. Seldom did our parents do that kind of work. It fell to us kids, and I really didn’t mind.

I kept everything up off the yard that wasn’t suppose to be there, and the only things I think should be on the ground are sand and grass, and obviously trees and pretty flowers. Anything else is an intruder, including too-tall grass. The old folks always said, “Keep the grass cut, because snakes like to hide in tall grass.” When I heard the word, “snake,” that was enough to make me pull out the mower or sling blade and get to cuttin‘.

Most people have probably never seen a “push” mower, but before homeowners got too lazy to push one (or rich enough to buy a riding one), they used the manual cutter. It’s difficult to describe what one looks like, but it had a long handle that was connected on either side to the wheels (on the bottom) between the blades. You’d push the mower back and forward and in the process, the blades turned over and over and “ate” the grass down. Unlike mowers today, there was no sack attached to the side to catch the cut grass. We had to rake it up, tote it off and burn it.

Now, the sling blade was a different story. This contraption was obviously built to be used by an adult. It came about to my waist (I was tall for my age). It had a long handle that joined at the bottom with each side attached to a sharp, straight, metal blade. When it was swung back and forth across the grass, eventually, it ate away the tall weeds. Usually the sling blade was used to chop tall grass before mowing. Tall grass could not be mowed with the push mower.

Working the push mower and sling blade was excellent exercise. I have no idea how long it took to cut our huge yard, but I can assure you it took more than a day. Eventually, though, the grass was all cut – neat and trim – until the next time around.

Published on Sep 18, 2013

Grit Magazine

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