1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

Cheap Mowers

While performing child labor, I discovered another one of Grandpa’s little secrets.

Dad discovered a way to get our backyard field chopped down using cheap labor, while keeping David and I occupied. As an added bonus, his scheme depleted our excess energy and tired us out.

Our backyard sloped down from the house, forming a perfect sledding hill in the winter. I call it a backyard, not a back lawn because it consisted of overgrown weeds; grass seeds weren’t yet sown. A power mower was correctly deemed too dangerous, so we used an old push mower. We started at the top of the hill, ran the push mower past the already-chopped area, and plowed two feet into the wilderness beyond–before coming to a clogged-up stop. We cleared the blades, dragged the mower up the hill, and repeated the process.

Mom came out with Kool-Aid and cookies often enough to keep us from tromping into the house. Lunches of Marshmallow Fluff and jelly sandwiches, with Scooter-Pie desserts, got devoured on the back-porch steps. When we got too hot, Mom brought out popcicles made from frozen Kool-aid. Dad sharpened the mowere blades a few times in hopes we’d experience enough success to keep going.

It took weeks to tame the jungle. Upon completion, we felt satisfaction for a job well-done and earned one dollar apiece. Dad got a manageable backyard he turned into a lawn.

Our mowing reputations spread, and four or five years later we signed up for another job. We took turns mowing Grandpa’s two acres of scattered lawns for one dollar. If we did the milk house area, we got an extra twenty-five cents–and since we were older, Grandpa let us use his power mower.

Grandpa’s most important lawn was a circular half-acre tucked between the dirt road, curving driveway, and cow-pasture fence. Two white posts with a hanging Bull Hill sign stood on the edge of the lawn, near the road. White painted rocks bordered the driveway and needed to be rolled off before mowing. I grabbed the rocks by their sides, so any slugs hanging on underneath couldn’t stick their slimy gunk on me. Often the grass-bare spots under the rocks yielded a worm burrowing its way back into the earth. When I found a surprised toad hunkered down, I picked him up carefully, so he couldn’t pee on me, and set him in Grandma’s flower bed across the driveway. After mowing, I rolled the stones back onto their exact same spots.

Grandpa showed us how to mow in straight horizontal lines. I came up with a better plan. Beginning on the outside of his important lawn, I worked my way to the center in one continuous spiral. Much faster and easier.

Grandpa didn’t appreciate my ingenuity. I redid the lawn in straight lines.

David and I liked the extra quarter and kept the milk-house area looking pristine. One day, an old push mower caught my eye–possibly because it dangled from the side of the milk-house, suspended a couple yards above the ground.

“Why’s your lawn mower hanging on the side of the barn, Grandpa?”

“Don’t worry about it. It’ll be gone next week.”

I pressed for more details. Grandpa shushed me and walked away. His demeanor mimicked the time I discovered his fishing secret, but he ambled back toward the house, instead of behind a tree.

Fast forward: As a senior in college, my two suitemates and I went to a bar in DePere, Wisconsin. The bartender recognized us as newbies. He laid a black walking stick across the bar in front of us.

“If you can tell me what this cane is made from I’ll give all three of you a free drink.”

I astounded him and my friends by quickly identifying the mystery material–a bull’s stretched out, sun-dried, private-area. I further amazed my audience by telling how Grandpa made his own special cane by hanging the material in question on the sunny side of his milk-house, with a push mower tied on the end to stretch it.

Lesson learned: Always keep your eyes open for the unusual; you and your friends might get free drinks someday, too.

Related posts: Exposed/Grandpa’s Secret


Now it’s your turn: What is one of your favorite Grandpa memories?


© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

1 Comment

  1. […] Related Stories: Chapter One: Grandma and Grandpa’s Farm; Chapter Two: Cheap Mowers […]

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