Thursday, April 14, 2011

Funny now, wasn't then

Time to take a break from race reports to tell a story that wasn't funny at the time, but is awesome now.

For several years through middle and high school, my brother Shane and I shared a mowing business.  Not a glamorous job, and we caught flak from friends for not getting "real" jobs, but then we told them we were making the same or better money for a fraction of the hours worked.  We both enjoyed working outside and sweating away gallons of water and gatorade a day in the Texas summer heat, and viewed lawn care as an art.  Being of a competitive nature, though, we seemed to always race each other; Who could finish their work first, without making any mistakes?  Our last summer working together, we could finish a medium-sized suburban lawn in under 20 minutes and were doing 20-25 yards a week.  Yeah, $60 an hour was nice.  In fact, that piddly little lawn business has paid for both of our trucks and a fair bit of bicycle racing gear.

Anyways, the story.

Running a commercial lawn business is hard on personal lawn equipment.  Basically, imagine buying one of those rollerskate cars they give away daily on The Price is Right, and driving it like a Le Mans car for hours a day in the summer in Texas, and you can comprehend the life expectancy of our lawn equipment.  Well, when our business really picked up many years ago, we finally killed the mower we'd been using--our parents'.

Naturally, they wanted us to buy the next one.  Something to do with personal responsibility, I think.

The new mower was working out great.  For a month or so.  Then it started developing a quiet knocking sound that got louder over a couple weeks.  Being the responsible business owners that we were, Shane and I ignored it.

Finally, we brought it up at dinner.

"Have you checked the oil lately?" our dad asked.

"I thought you were doing that...I mean, yeah! Of course we checked the oil!" Oops.

We checked the oil. Save for the tiny droplet of black goop at the end of the dipstick, there wasn't any. Problem solved, we just needed to add oil!  And it only needed a quart, to boot!

That same evening, we were mowing our own yard.  We got going, and Shane quickly did the front yard and moved on to the back while I ran around doing all the trim work.  About halfway through, I finally got to the back yard.  As I approached the gate, I could faintly hear the familiar knocking sound our mower had been making.

Something was wrong, though.  The mower sounded worse, somehow.  My mind also registered the cloud hovering over the backyard, rising above the fenceline.

I opened the fence to see Shane mowing the lawn in a full sprint.  His arms were locked straight out pushing the mower, his body nearly horizontal to the ground like he's trying to move a wall. Legs pushing furiously, he flew past me, his face an expression of horror. A healthy motor would have struggled to maintain that pace; ours was billowing white smoke into the air.  You could have covered troop movements in battle, it was creating so much smoke.

You see, the knocking noise we'd grown accustomed to was a result of a cracked engine block.  Apparently, they need oil.  We finally gave it oil that day, which it promptly drained onto the hot engine block in a magnificent final hurrah.

The rush, though, was not out of fear for his own safety or concern that it might catch fire.  No, Shane was in a full sprint because he feared our mom would see the smoke and make him stop before the lawn was finished.  You can't say we weren't committed to our work!

We never had trouble remembering to change the oil after that...