Push Mowers and Sling Blades

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Where I come from, people judge you by the way you dress … how neat and clean you are and more particularly, how you keep your property, especially the outside of your house. Since most people never come inside your house, they form opinions about you by how well you keep (or don’t keep up) your surroundings.

People would even laugh when they rode past a property that looked like it had been unkempt for ages. In other words, if it looked as though a vagabond or a tramp lived there. In my community, laziness was not a trait that was encouraged, so everybody worked hard to have a neat, clean yard scape.

We lived in a large but a not so attractive house, so the least we felt we could do was to 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. Normally, it fell to us kids, and I really didn’t mind.

I kept everything up off the yard that wasn’t supposed to be there, and the only things that I think should be on the ground are dirt, grass, pretty flowers, trees, bushes and shrubs. Anything else, including too-tall grass, is an intruding eyesore.

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 and sling blade and get to cuttin’. So when the grass, especially in the back yard, got tall enough for me to hide in, I decided it was time to start whacking away.

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 and either tote it off or 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. .Since tall grass cannot be mowed with the push mower, usually the sling blade was used to chop waist high grass before even attempting to mow it. 

Using 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. Hopefully, our manicured lawn caused our neighbors to smile whenever they passed our house.

Photo: Fotolia/Mario Beauregard