The Mowing Guru
By Bobby Neal Winters
I got a call the other day from my old friend Bubba back home. Mowing was on his mind.
With the latest rain having brought up the green grass, I’ve been thinking about the mowing season myself. It is always one of the most active times of the year as I am trying to mow my way into heaven. Bubba’s call helped spur my thinking. He lives about a five-hour drive south of me, and, over the years, I’ve discovered that they are about three weeks ahead of us as far as the mowing season goes.
“I mowed the yard for the first time today,” he said. “And I witnessed a miracle.”
“A miracle?” I echoed back as a question. Bubba is given to flights of fancy and indulges in a bit of hyperbole beyond that, so I’ve learned to be wary.
“Yes,” he said. “I got my riding mower started without a trip to the repair shop.”
To be able to fully appreciate the impact of that statement, one must know Bubba’s history with lawn mowers. Let us begin with the fact that he treats his mowers with a policy of malignant neglect. He never changes his oil, but only replaces it, and, in addition to this, he periodically tries to wean his mowers off it.
Add to this the fact that he mows with lightning speed as if he is in the Indianapolis 500. Now add that he’s a bit on the hefty side. He was once driving around north of the town of Ada, Oklahoma and got lost. He stopped and asked someone who was out in the front yard how he could get to 377 and they said, “Diet and exercise.” All of this to say he runs is mower with heavy loads at high speed and inadequate lubrication.
Most operating manuals don’t advocate this sort of treatment, but, as Bubba is quick to point out, they don’t precisely prohibit it either. Nevertheless, as a result of this sort of treatment, Bubba is required to have his mower repaired every year before the first mowing.
Hence my response:
“Golly, that was a miracle,” I said with a laugh.
“Don’t laugh,” he said. “I’m serious. I think that mowing is my conduit to God.”
He was so serious I was somewhat taken aback.
“Really?” I asked. I do write about mowing my way to heaven, but mine is a theology of works through God’s grace. I got the feeling that this was something different.
“Really!” he said. “When I get out on my riding mower in the sunshine—or should I say Sonshine,” I could see the spelling in the way he said it, “with all of the green grass and warm air and all of the birds and bees and insects of nature around me, I feel directly connected to God.”
“Well, that’s...,” I started a sentence but was interrupted.
“Whatever burden I am carrying, whatever sorrow I may be feeling just disappears when I climb astride that mighty machine,” he continued.
I waited a few beats after he finished this time before replying.
“Well, that’s very interesting,” I said. “I’ve never known anyone before who gets that big of a charge out of mowing.”
“It’s more than a charge,” he said. “It’s like I’m being a conduit for the Holy Spirit itself.”
I thought his was going to say, “Hallelujah,” and I almost said, “Amen!”
“Okay,” I said instead. I felt a feeling that was similar to one I had when I heard a woman say she liked to wash dishes by hand. It was like I wanted to make sure she wasn’t washing any sharp knives.
There was a little more awkward silence before I continued.
“I think it’s great that you enjoy mowing so,” I said. “I just don’t like it that much myself.”
“Well,” he said, sounding more serious than ever, “I will pray for you.”
“Thanks,” I said and we said good-bye.
(Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Mathematics, and Acting Chair of the Department of Chemistry.)