Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #115 “Lawn Tractors!”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.


by Larry Brody

Paradise County, where I live and work, learn and teach, and laugh and cry, is a wonderful place. Truly a paradise in many ways.

But it’s also got its dark underbelly. The cruel, painful side spoken of by only the bravest of Paradise citizens, and then only in hushed, frightened whispers.

Today, however, it’s time for me to face the enemy. Yes, yours truly, Larry B, is going to live up to my journalistic responsibility and talk about—

Wait for it.

Keep waiting….

All right:

Riding mowers.

AKA lawn tractors.

AKA demon spawn.

Talk about a “can’t live with ’em, can’t without ’em” situation!

The relationship between any man living in the rural Unite States—even Paradise—and his lawn tractor can only be described by appropriating an all-too well known psychiatric term:

Dysfunctional.

As all get-out.

In fact, on the list of dysfunctional relationships, man and lawn tractor deserves a five-star place of honor right at the top.

Above such classic messes as husband and mother-in-law. Wife and ex-wife. My dog Emmy the Bold and her latest beloved, The Skunk In The Crawl Space.

Yes, it’s that bad.

What brings this up is—as you’ve probably guessed—the trouble I’m having with my current lawn tractor, which last week decided it no longer had a reason to start.

This is far from its first problem of its short, troubled lifetime. Or even of this year.

The first problem of the year showed up in the spring, when the belt that tells the cutting deck that, “Yep, you can slice and dice all this grass now,” decided it preferred to spend its time on the ground instead of in the groove.

hat meant that after every twenty minutes or so of mowing the blades suddenly would stop, and Burl Jr. the New Groundskeeper or I would have to belly down on the grass and put it back in place.

What’s that you say? “Why didn’t you get a new belt?”

I tried. Honest. But Paradise Hardware didn’t have the right one. They ordered it six weeks ago, but it still hasn’t come in.

The second problem of the year also involved the cutting deck. The blades needed to be replaced. But although taking off the first one was a piece of cake, the second blade was frozen in place.

No matter how hard we tried, or what tool we used, not I, not Burl Jr., not even Buck the Ex-Navy Seal could loosen that old boy up.

It wasn’t until Doug the Dog Breeder came over with a classic Winchester shotgun and threatened to blow the whole assembly to Kingdom Come that the second blade gave up and allowed us to unbolt it.

This year’s third problem occurred just a couple of weeks ago. My Murray started cutting unevenly, even with its new blades. Because both of them were bent ‘way out of whack, courtesy of unwanted contact with some big, fine Ozarks rocks.

When the tractor stopped running altogether and Sonny at the hardware store said he couldn’t fix it till Fall because six pages of broken lawn tractors were waiting ahead of me, I did what any red-blooded consumer would and called the manufacturer to “discuss” the situation.

A patient Customer Support Rep heard me out and then replied, “Sir, just what is it you’re mowing with this machine?”

“I’m mowing my clearing, that’s what!”

“Don’t you mean ‘lawn,’ sir?”

“I mean ‘clearing.’ The clearing in the woods surrounding our house.”

“Oh, sir,” said the Rep, “I’m so sorry. Our lawn tractors aren’t made for that kind of use. They’re only for lawns. I’m afraid your warrantee is null and void from misuse.”

“‘Misuse?’ All I’m doing is cutting my grass!”

“The wrong kind of grass, sir. Our product is only intended for smooth, even grass. Like golf courses have.”

So there you have it. The truth behind lawn tractors: They’re not intended to be used by the people who need ’em most.

See what I mean by demon spawn?

A couple of years ago Fiona Apple released a brilliant CD about love affairs gone bad. In one song she sang, “You disappointed me by not letting me down.” The twisty irony of the lyric became my definition of wonderful writing.

Know what, lawn tractor? You’ve inspired me to create my own far less wonderful version of Ms. Apple’s words:

“You never disappoint me because you always let me down.”

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.