“Old Red is not dead,” I proclaimed sadly as a reentered the house last week. It is a spring ritual here where the pollen coats the South in a pasty, yellow mist. Along with the budding azaleas and rejuvenated gardenias, the grass makes a clumpy appearance and I have to pull Old Red out of her graveyard under the back porch. Well, it isn’t a graveyard yet, because Old Red is not quite dead.
We’ve had Old Red for what must be sixteen years – well past her serviceable life. When my previous mower died, I saw her chained up outside the store with some other discounted models. Who can pass up a $400 mower for $87? Old Red called out to me in her shackles and I answered. The man said she had been returned because she leaked gas – which made her a perfect complement to my family, so I brought her home. Turns out a little duct tape on a leaky tube and she’s never spewed gas again. Wish I could say the same for my family.
I’m ready for a new mower. I pull her chain tentatively every spring and pray she won’t start – a prayer to which God laughs and says no. She roars to life just to spite me and I die inside a little.
You might ask why I don’t just go buy a new one, but we aren’t the kind of people who just go buy new things when we have old things that work. We drive our cars until they die on the road, wear jeans until there have non-fashionable holes in the knees, and keep sheets until they get so threadbare they disintegrate if you slip in to bed too quickly. In fact, we were the last people in Georgia to buy a flat screen TV because our old tube TV still worked. It made weird noises and only turned on if you held your mouth just right, but that’s working in our house.
So I won’t buy a new mower when the old one is working. But that doesn’t mean I have to make life easy on her. I haven’t put anything but gas in her in five years. I figure that oil well has to be dry as a bone by now and still she plods on. The spiteful wench dropped a belt a few years ago so she wouldn’t have to self-propel anymore, a move which probably bought her extra time. I leave her out in the elements where she gets coated in rust and bird poop. I quit hosing her off in 2008. All four wheels are wobbly and she drops parts constantly. I just leave them where they lie thinking one might be important. She has to die sometime – the question is, will I go before she does?
We have this rivalry, Old Red and I. I don’t take care of her so she doesn’t mow evenly anymore. She seeks out rocks and sweet gum balls to shoot back at me and has become a pretty good aim over the years. She let her body rust-through in all the right places so that any projectile comes straight at my head. I get a vigorous workout dodging shrapnel in the thirty minutes it takes to cut the grass.
She’s a bitter old cuss…
But there’s something about her – a fighting spirit that won’t give in to life’s hard knocks. If she were a woman I’d picture a weathered redhead leaning out of the screen door of a trailer with a cigarette in one hand and tumbler of whiskey in the other. The kind of woman that spouts profanity with every other word then fixes her chemically-ravaged hair as if she were still the finest of ladies.
Well, I would have never thought it, but Old Red made it to the spring of 2016. So did I. Together we opened another mowing season. My lawn looks like crap and so does she, but the old hag is still kicking. No, Old Red is not quite dead – but there is always hope that she might go soon.