Chris Johnson

I have a little trouble getting cranked up

I am a person who is all about growth. You know, like a politician running for mayor in a city that’s already sprawled out of control, I’m still always focused on growth. I’m even growing a little bit of a beard at the moment.

Lately that focus on growth has also been applied to the yard at the cabin in the sticks where I’m living temporarily. I like for my grass to grow tall and strong and reach for the stars. I want it to reach its full potential.

My dad, who owns the cabin, doesn’t share my views on grass. He is at war with grass, always cutting it down and holding it back. I contend this is utter discrimination because he’s thrilled when his pine trees and mater plants grow healthy and tall. He doesn’t get in a huff and go hacking them down.

Fortunately my dad has a couple of lawnmowers with which I am expected to continue his oppression of the grass. I’ve agreed because it beats the alternative of living in a tent. Unfortunately, they’re not all that easy to operate.

See, my dad doesn’t buy many new things. Maybe a new hamburger every now and then or a new pogo stick because the used ones have very little bounce. Otherwise, he’s frugal. Some would say frugal to a fault. Others would say frugal to the point of some sort of mental illness. I’d say, yeah, y’all are so right.

So, his lawnmowers are somewhat troubled machines. The biggest trouble is trying to get them cranked. The push mower weighs approximately as much as a Sherman tank, but you’ve got to turn it upside down for a moment to get it cranked. I think it only actually cranks if you turn it upside down on a Tuesday when the relative humidity is less than 60 percent in an odd-numbered month.

After unsuccessfully trying to crank it on such a day, he informed me that I was (a) kinda stupid and (2) not following his simple instructions of moving the throttle to the “stop” position to make it go faster and stay cranked. Well, duh! What was I thinking?! Stop means go! Kinda like a yellow traffic light in Columbus. Or a red one for that matter. Well, no. In Columbus, red means “only two more.”

Since I couldn’t crank it at the time, I tried the riding mower. To my utter shock, it cranked. I then backed out, only to find it had two flat tires. And I mean flat, pancake flat, my 401(k) performance flat. And when I tried to pump up the first tire, the little nozzle thingamajiggy disappeared into the tire like the witch’s feet after the house landed on her in Oz. I decided to take a deep breath and count to 10 to compose myself.

“One. Two. #$%&! and #$@&*!”

That made me feel a little better about having to call my dad, who showed up to demonstrate once again that (1) I’m kinda stupid and (b) the push mower runs great when you put it in “stop.”

“Duh,” he said.

Oh well, now he’s attached a mower that I pull with a big old tractor. I look like Mister Douglas from “Green Acres” -- minus the suit, of course. I think it’s overdoing it a bit. It’s like killing a fly with a nuclear missile.

But at least I can crank the tractor. It runs a little funny and there’s a few tricks to such things as -- you know, brakes and stuff -- that I’ll probably never learn. So, if you’re ever out in the sticks and see the cabin flattened, my truck crushed, a utility pole fallen over, my dead body lying in a ditch and a driver-less tractor wandering around, you’ll know what happened. “Yep, looks like Chris tried to mow the grass again.”

Chris Johnson is an independent correspondent. He can be reached at