CARLTON FLETCHER: Cheap route on lawn care pays off

OPINION: Spark plug keeps $80 mower running for another season

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Could it be that it was oh so simple then?

— Barbra Streisand

Before I get down to the gist of this, let me tell a little story that my family is so tired of hearing. It has to do with my 80-something-dollar lawn mower.

I bought the MDS brand grass cutter on special at Home Depot two summers ago for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t have a whole lot of home improvement dollars built into my budget and second, I’m cheap. I’m the world’s best at buying low-end lawn mowers — having bought a dozen or so over the years — and running them until they just die.

My logic is simple: Figuring if you have a big yard to cut (I do), you pay someone anywhere from $40 (for a neighborhood kid who will do a lousy job) to $150 for some of those lawn care companies that have those big-hog, riding, zero-turn-radius, mulch-as-you-go mowers — if “Home Improvements” was still on the air, Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor would be going “Owww, awwww, owww” right about now — every time they cut your grass.

Figure 15 to 20 cuts over the course of a year (depending on your enthusiasm for lawn maintenance) and you’re looking at from $600 to $3,000 a season if you paid someone else to do the job. I figure if you get a good year out of your lawn mower, you’re going to come out to the good.

My trusty MDS, which, I’ll go ahead and say, is the best individual lawn mower ever made, is well into its third season of cuts and it’s still a first-pull crank. In fact, I was going to write about having the best individual lawn mower ever made three weeks ago when, all of a sudden, Little Red just died on me. I pulled and pulled its rope, but it would not turn over.

Being the mechanically-inclined man that I am, I did all I know to do to my Little Engine That Could — which included checking the gas and … ummm … looking up under it to see of a piece of wire or a small animal got caught up in it. I lamented the death of this amazing machine and started looking in pawn shops and in the want-ads for used lawn mowers available on the cheap.

My wife, being way smarter and way more mechanically inclined than I, suggested we buy a new spark plug to put in Red. I didn’t tell her that I thought her suggestion was a waste of time — and of the two bucks for the spark plug — figuring it would be simpler just to change the plug and keep looking for a replacement. Coming back from a Fathers Day treat — the new Adam Sandler movie … what can I say, my daughters know what I like — I hand-tightened the spark plug into my little lawn mower and gave its starter rope a half-hearted tug.

That sucker cranked on the first pull, and for the next four hours I was a happy lawn man. And Little Red, well, that amazing machine did not miss a beat. It mowed down waist-high Bahia grass and other assorted weeds — we live in the country, there’s no such thing as a lawn in the country — without so much as a hitch.

So, I have the best individual lawn mower in the world.

And on Monday night, after another two-hour grass-cutting session, I was outside with my family, enjoying the relative cool of the early evening, when we experienced one of those wonders that I thought was gone forever. As dusk settled around us, we were delighted to see the lights of fireflies lighting up the sky. My wife and I both started waxing nostalgic, having each gone years with only rare glimpses of the insect-world wonders.

Of course, the now-12-year-old at the house said, “Can I run in and get a jar to catch one in?”

We both said no, reminding our disappointed little one that it was because people like us had caught — and, unwittingly, killed — “lightning bugs” when we were kids that it’d been so long since we’d seen them. So we just sat and watched. And reminisced. And marvelled again at how amazing God and nature are.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.