A little over a year ago, I traded in my old lawn mower for a state-of-the-art, new mower that I concluded, considering my advanced age, would be the last one I’d ever have to buy. It is a zero-turn machine that has a 60-inch cut and sports a 28HP engine. When it was delivered by the machinery dealer, that I’ve dealt with for years, I reminisced that the new mower’s price tag was more than I paid for my first tractor so many years ago.
The contraption was as good as advertised and I could finish my yard in less than 30 minutes – until my wife discovered how much fun it was to drive and, since then, I haven’t gotten to mow our yard all summer. Of course, I’m not complaining. But, a couple of months ago, when I would mow down at one of the other farms that has a huge, 3-acre yard, I started having a problem with the new mower. After about 30 minutes of mowing, I would have to disengage the blades for some reason, the blades would not re-engage unless I allowed the machine to sit and cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Since it was still under warranty, I loaded it up and hauled it back to the dealership for repair.
After a couple of days at the implement dealer, the service manager called and said, “Jerry, we can’t get this mower to replicate the problem.”
“Oh, you have to mow with it for longer than 30 minutes to get it to act up,” I replied. Frustrated, he asked me to come over the next day to show them what was wrong.
When I arrived at the dealership and visited with the service guy for a few minutes, we headed to the shop where there were a few more mowers sitting for maintenance and repair. “Where is it?” I asked.
He laughed when he pointed to a clean, shiny, new-looking mower that I didn’t recognize. “We cleaned it up a little,” he stated.
I told the manager that I would sit on the mower and run it for about 30 minutes and it should present the problem I had been encountering. He suggested that I might want to mow some grass to imitate the conditions I had been experiencing as he quickly pointed to a large machinery display area near the rear of their business. I started mowing.
While mowing, I could imagine one of my neighbors driving by and surmising that, “Yep, Jerry has finally gone broke farming and is having to mow lawns for a living,” or worse yet, “I guess Jerry couldn’t make his payment on that last tractor and is having to mow their yard in lieu of payment.” Luckily, none of my neighbors happened by that day.
After mowing for 30 minutes, I shut off the blades expecting them to fail to re-engage. The machine worked correctly and I mowed for another hour in an effort to duplicate my problem, stopping and starting at least 10 times over that time period. Nothing.
At the end of 90 minutes of mowing, I had the 2-acre machinery lot looking like a manicured lawn and my high-priced lawn mower was working perfectly. I apologized to the manager, loaded up the piece of equipment and headed home.
On the way home, however, I remembered the story by Mark Twain. Tom Sawyer had fooled his friends into doing his work while he rested in the shade and collected their money. But, I wasn’t born yesterday. I may have mowed their lawn, but I didn’t pay them a dime.


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