I cease yanking the pull cord on my push mower to catch my breath. Gas fumes waft in the air.

“No, Tuff! Don’t kick the bucket today!”

It is mid-November and the last time I’ll need to mow the lawn.

“Just one pass, pal.”

I glance at a swath of grass beyond the mole hills, then give mower one more yank. Then another. Then another.

Tuff  hacks a dry cough.

Another yank.

Nothing. No click. No sputter. Not a quiver.

Kneeling, I remove my hat.

These difficult starts have been a summer-long issue. Fortunately for Tuff, the season was dry and my budget’s been low.

I place my hand on the gouged manifold shield and give it a pat.

Twenty years of bumping across clumps of grass in my dry-as-hardpan yard. Long days of chomping mesquite saplings, tumbleweed thickets and broom weed encroachment. Long forays of bouncing beneath electric fence wire, flinging stones the size of baseballs, spitting out rusted strands of barbwire.

Yep, Tuff was one tough machine.

The sight of Tuff’s faded paint and splayed wheels never failed to fill me with pride. If friends can influence your character, why not the equipment stored in your shed?

“You gave your all, Tuff.”

I push the old fella toward my truck, lift him onto the bed and head down the road. At the edge of town, I pull into a weed-choked lot cluttered with discarded washers, bed springs and bent spouting. I park the truck, open the tailgate and jerk Tuff off the bed.

The mower hits the ground with a hard thud. I give Tuff one last look. “What the heck?,” I say out loud.

Then I give the cord one last pull.

The jolt of hitting the ground must have jiggled a loose connection because the motor comes to life on the first yank! No cough, no gurgle, just a smooth whirl as soft as the purr of a cat.

Tuff! You son-of-gun!”

Smiling big, I flip the off-switch and load him back on the truck.

“You’re a tough ol’ geezer.”

I slam the tailgate and throw him a nod. “Just like me.”

01 / 23 / 2024
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