REFLECTION: RALPH BARTHOLDT — A grunting riding video game? Not in this neighborhood, you don’t

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Riding lawn mowers seem to be the wave of the future.

At this, you might say, chum, they have been around for a long time. Surely, so long in fact that outlying burgs from Bonners to Mink Creek have their own personal versions of lawnmower men driving around town sitting on the yellow throne of a John Deere with a cold beverage warming in their cup holders as spinning blades kick stones and debris into the sky like the dervish yelps of dogs and things that get struck by them.

I have only one word for that:


But in my neighborhood push mowers are king.

My neighborhood is a place where kids wear baseball caps with the logo of their Little League team strapped to the crown and the garbage truck comes by once a week collecting clean recyclables and other grungy stuff that sticks to the insides of the can.

The cars are often washed, and the lawns are bashful about dandelions and clover.

Deer nibble our newly planted fruit trees.

In other words, it’s ‘Merica and kids do the heavy lifting so they get to play sports.

And that’s why we’re a push mower place.

Change, however, is in the air.

I know this from personal experience because I saw myself reflected in the glass door of a hardware store, while kneeling on the cement sidewalk inspecting the underparts of a riding mower.

Sure is a big cutting surface, I heard myself saying, and I remembered having one of these when I was a kid.

Ours was a Craftsman, however, that looked like it was built from Legos, and these new babies are aerodynamic.

I said that word aloud in a hushed tone with some verve.

It feels good coming off the tongue while standing outside in the summer scrutinizing the gazelle-like features, say, of a Cub Cadet, with your ball cap advertising a favorite Little League team tipped back farm-like.

As I considered the fine qualities of the riding mowers, a man in an apron came out to ponder, alongside my own pondering, the attributes of key-turning, plush seat, cup-holding, grass-cutting machines.

The kids in the neighborhood are getting older, and maybe it’s time to upgrade, we mused together, almost in unison.

There’s a sense of responsibility comes with a rider, and probably less drama when the topic of cutting the grass comes up.

Fewer eye rolls, maybe. Fewer excuses, fewer candy wrappers found under the bed, less begging to cut just part of the lawn before running off to the mall to shop for jodhpurs with mom.

Probably not that, but it feels like the beginning of something, I told the man with the apron who had taken to cleaning his teeth with a pocket knife.

Yes, he said.

There was a moment of silence.

A dog barked from inside a nearby car parked with the windows rolled partially up.

“It would be kind of like playing a video game, I suppose,” offered the man in the apron.

The sun suddenly came out hot and muggy. There was a lot of pollen in the air. Someone called the police to report the dog in the hot car. A fire truck rolled past full code, honking through an intersection, and I realized I was on an errand for weed killer and a spray bottle of deer repellent.

I should be knee deep in a river casting a hopper at a shady spot on the lee side of a rock, I huffed.

A riding video game?

What next? A headset and a big screen to chase digital bad guys on a cool basement couch with a bag of squirmy worms?

Not in this neighborhood.

I made a mental note to get a gallon of gas for the push mower on the way home.

• • •

Ralph Bartholdt can be reached at

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