Monday, August 01, 2011

Weed eaters, sex, and batteries

Weed eaters, sex, and batteries

By Bobby Neal Winters

As some of you may have guessed, some of the little details of life that make the world that much more beautiful aren’t really all that important to me. I have now evolved enough in my development to appreciate this level of detail, to realize that some consider it to be very important, but, as of yet, I’ve not set attaining this level of detail in my own work to be an immediate, high priority.

Take for example lawn care. I mow my lawn on a regular basis. My family, who got into the detail thing even less than I do, gave me a high value on mowing when I was a child. We mowed the lawn for the snakes. This had a double effect, as Aquinas might say. The first of these was to keep the snakes away, as snakes prefer tall grass and will eschew mowed areas in favor of cover. The second is that if a snake were to come into the mowed area he would be rendered easier to find and kill.

It’s a practical thing: life and death.

A detail like weed eating, i.e. trimming and edging does not come into this. Mowing is for safety; trimming and edging is cosmetic.

But, as I am continually reminded, I am no longer a country boy. I live in town. A lot of town folks take what was once just an activity done for personal safety and turn it into a sport. It is a sport in the sense that they practice it themselves and observe--and criticise--the efforts of others.

While I like to think of myself as immune to peer pressure because I never did drugs (didn’t inhale because I’ve never even been in the room with a joint) and never drank a beer until the day after my oldest daughter was born (a St. Pauli Girl: you never forget your first girl), the peer pressure of weed eating has taken root.

I suppose this is because there is a certain amount of cool-looking equipment involved. Weed eaters extend our powers. One could say they are phallic to a certain degree. There are the electric ones, but with them you are tethered to the nearest electrical outlet and require electricity as an outside power source. It totally mutes the feeling of independence.

A gasoline powered machine makes you free. The gas-powered ones also require a special petroleum product to be mixed with the gasoline because of the 2-cycle engines. I find this to be an activity that separates the sexes.

To explain this, I have to be very careful. Women certainly are capable of creating the special mixture of gasoline required for 2-cycle engines. Indeed, as they have some much practice mixing up stuff for cakes and other women-stuff like that, one would suspect they would be far more adept at this than the male of the species. My point is they don’t choose to do it. It could be they leave it to us because “men ought to be good for something.” In any case, it seeming to be a male-only activity makes it more attractive; kind of like writing our names in the snow.

The trouble with gas-powered weed eaters is that they are incredibly tedious. Most only work well the first time they are used. The rest work well for a season. There is a tiny minority that work well for more than a season. These are the few who are lucky enough to be owned by men who know how to take care of things.

My father-in-law was such a man. He preached to me the gospel of draining gasoline from engines over the winter. He was a good man. He left me a well-taken-care-of Homelite weed eater. It always started on the first pull. It always ran as long as you needed it.

He then passed-away and I inherited it. It lasted one season with me. I left the gas in it over the winter, and it wouldn’t start this season. After I’d pulled on it long enough to give a convincing impression of a man having a heart attack, I began to hear his voice. It was gentle, with a touch of humor.

“Didn’t drain the gas over the winter, did you?”

“No,” heave, heave, cough, cough, sweat, sweat, “I didn’t.”

“Having trouble starting it, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” gasp, gasp, drip, drip, “I am.”

“Maybe if you drained the gas now, made up a new batch, and put a new spark plug in it would help.”

I rested for three days and tried this. The weed eater started but couldn’t sustain. I thought about my earlier analogy and all those Cialis commercials that are on, but I decided there was such a thing a pushing a metaphor too far. I also tried fixing my Weedeater brand weed eater, but to no avail.

While I was at Home Depot getting my new spark plug, I noticed something new. It was a battery-powered Ryobi weed eater. It didn’t cost all that much and it combined the freedom of the gasoline version with the ease of use of the electric one.

It’s an eight-teen volt machine. It starts every time.

Having written that just now, it strikes me that maybe, having removed my last excuse for not weed eating that I’ve out-smarted myself.

Such is life.

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