MaxBarry.com
not as edgy as you'd think

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Mon 05
Dec
2005

I Was a Teenage Lawn Mower

Max I grew up in Stratford, a tiny town in Gippsland, Victoria, where there are ten cows for every human being. Stratford is known primarily for being just ten miles away from Sale, and Sale is known primarily for its maximum-security prison, so that was my youth: trudging ten miles to school every morning while watching carefully in case murderers were lurking behind cows, waiting to leap out and grab me.

I mention this because I was recently reminded of my lawnmower experience. In fact, every time I see my mother or stepfather, I get reminded of my lawnmower experience, because somehow a couple of tiny incidents in my teenage years have bloomed into legend. I am most unfairly portrayed in this legend, so I’m setting the record straight here, where members of my family are unable to respond.

Despite owning more acres of grass than Bob Marley, we didn’t have a ride-on mower. We had a push mower, one so ancient and temperamental that it wouldn’t start with less than ten minutes of gentle caresses and ego-stroking. Or, when that failed, judicious application of a hammer. I frequently complained about this, but my parents just thought I was whining. Which, clearly, I was. But with excellent reason.

One time when I was about 16, I just could not start the thing. I’d tried whispering sweet nothings, touching its most intimate places, the hammer—all the seduction techniques popular in Gippsland—but couldn’t get a response. Finally, exhausted, I went inside to declare the impossibility of completing my assigned lawn-mowing duties. But rather than being sympathetically consoled as you might expect, my mother responded: “I don’t care! I don’t want to hear about it, Max, just mow the lawn!”

Already, I’m sure you’ll agree, there was enough unfairness here to keep a regular teenager moping for days. But being a dutiful son, I pondered upon my dilemma until I came up with an ingenious solution: I got out a pair of hedge clippers and began to slowly move across the vast expanse of our lawn, cutting approximately three blades of grass per snip. My mother saw this out the window, but—inexplicably—rather than marveling at what a plucky, dedicated lad she was raising, she interpreted the scene as some kind of surly teenage rebellion and yelled at me to go borrow the neighbor’s mower, if I couldn’t get ours started.

I was a little hurt at having my clever hedge-clipper idea rejected, but, being always happy to help, was willing to give this mower-borrowing idea a run. And run I did, because by now it was almost dark. I had to race over the neighbors—if I remember right, this was several miles away, around several cows and an escaped serial murderer—then race back and sprint around our lawn with the mower while the darkness closed in.

By now you, like me, no doubt have tears in your eyes at my incredible courage and determination. But somehow my family don’t see it that way: oh no, to them, me running around in the dark with the neighbor’s mower is a classic example of how I would do anything to get out of mowing lawns.

I guess what they say is true: you never understand your family. But I know this: as soon as I moved away to college, they bought a ride-on mower.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 3192 days ago

Mon. Dec. 5, 2OO5

I'VE BEEN IN A SIMILAR SITUATION!

It was back when I was only about 13 or 14. I was and still am extemely allergic to grass. I didn't know it at the time, but I was fairly cerntain. My parents forced me to mow the lawn because they didn't believe me when I said that I thought I was allergic to grass. So I started mowing. I did about three rows before my eyes swelled shut...
I now have allergy medicine.

"Despite owning more acres of grass than Bob Marley"
That's clever.

-Adam


shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 3192 days ago

Speaking of mowing stories, I found this one to be funny (mentioned on the Stern Show):

Smokin' Joe Frasier and his chopped off toe! 5-17-96. Howard heard about how Joe Frasier cut off a toe while mowing his lawn. Some guy called in the story this morning. Howard wanted to hear from Joe himself so he got him on the phone late this morning. Joe was in good spirits considering he just lost his left big toe to a lawn mower! Joe mows his own lawn with a push mower to keep in shape. He was walking backwards when he tripped and fell backwards. That's when the mower took off part of his left big toe. Joe put some alcohol on the toe, wrapped it in a towel and drove himself to the hospital! They couldn't find the rest of the toe after the mower took it so he now has a stump. Joe said the he doesn't need it anyway. Howard asked him if he cried when it happened. Not Joe! He's a real man.

Grace (#1225)

Location: Melbourne aka The Cliffs of Insanity
Quote: "I refuse to have a battle of wits with someone who is unarmed."
Posted: 3192 days ago

Of course they bought a ride on mower! Once they had to do the job themselves they realised it wasn't as easy as you made it look...

Mwuahahahahah!

I have family in Gippsland. Your parents might have considered borrowing a neighbours cows to "mow" the grass.
Thats what mine used to do... until THEY got a ride on mower.

Stuart Lamble (#1321)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional."
Posted: 3192 days ago

If it had been me as your father, I would have just left you out there, doing the grass, three blades at a time, without so much as a crumb of food until it was all done.

Why yes, I am an evil bastard ... how ever did you guess? ;)

Erin (#1481)

Location: Seattle
Quote: "Living is easy with eyes closed"
Posted: 3191 days ago

Why do you have to be such a rebelious teenager? Er... I more or less meant why were you? All you kids are the same - with your hoola hoops and your ice cream.

Machine Man subscriber Katrina (#847)

Location: SF, CA
Quote: "Good sex is like good Bridge: if you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand." -- Mae West"
Posted: 3191 days ago

lol... Everything is open to interpretation, but the clippers idea you have to admit was a little weird...

Oenone (#151)

Location: Konstanz, Germany
Quote: "I don't want to lie to you, but I will."
Posted: 3191 days ago

yes, i think all parents do this to their children. when i lived with my parents as a teenager, my daily chore was to wash the dishes. my brother had to try them. every single night, no exceptions. when i moved out and my brother only started visiting on weekends, my lazy father finally broke down and got a mechanical dishwasher as his ones of flesh and blood had desered him.

rAcHeL j. (#1524)

Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Quote: "Never believe anything until it's been officially denied."
Posted: 3190 days ago

Your fans understand, Max, we were abused, too. Some of us still are. Sniff.

Machine Man subscriber Emmaus (#1692)

Location: North Carolina, USA
Quote: "How much deeper would the ocean be without sponges?"
Posted: 3188 days ago

When I was 15 I was pushing a lawnmower down a steep incline and it flipped up at the end of the hill and stayed inverted. I, naturally, tripped and my leg landed on the mower, causing what the ER people said was a cut that was "impressive." It took 38 staples to close the wounds and my knee still isn't right (7 years later).

My parents told me I did that so I wouldn't have to mow the lawn.

Michael (#1299)

Location: Northern California
Quote: "Chugachugachoochoo"
Posted: 3182 days ago

My pops would have left me out there cutting the lawn with the clippers. It would have been his way of 'teaching me not to be a smartash.' Can I say smartash?

My pops and I often had long battles of stubborness. He would cook something I couldnt tolerate for dinner and I would refuse to eat it after tepidly trying a few tender tidbits. Honestly, I'd try, but it would make me literally gag. He'd make me sit at the table, thinking my gagging noises were just me 'being smart.' He'd keep me at the table from 5 until after 9, "Untill I cleaned my plate." After bedtime, he'd just send me off to bed, food still uneaten.

Then the next week or so, he'd fix the same thing, routine would happen all over again.

Youthful rebels! You should make a website about that and get people to send in their stories.

Col Counsell (#1836)

Location: Australia
Quote: "It takes a lot of thought - and effort - and downright determinaton to be agreeable (Ray Everson)"
Posted: 3169 days ago

Dear Max.
It's been about 14 years now since you left our comfortable abode yet I still remember your lawn mowing experiences quite well. As I recall you were an extremely dedicated VCE student at the time and we were very concerned at the fact that you were rarely seen around our home other than on Sunday evenings when you would venture out of your room for about thirty minutes to share your favourite meal of pizza with your family, most of whome you no longer recognised, whilst watching your favourite TV program 60 Minutes. That done you would quickly scamper back to the safety of your little cave before anyone was able to engage you in time-wasting conversation.
We were so concerned at your state after so many months of hibernation, that we elected to endeavour to have you attempt some outside 'work' (it was a motor mower after all). In retrospect, I guess that I did do you a slight injustice in expecting you to get this 'brand new' mower working. I didn't allow for your lack of exposure to anything practical in your studies. (I knew we should have sent you to the Tech school)
It was a wonderful idea of your mother's for you to go to the neighbours and borrow their mower. And getting them to start it first was a stroke of genius on your part. Believe it or not, we still use the track that you cut through the bush in returning from their place and we have become good friends as well, despite their initial dissatisfaction with the state of their machine when they finally got it back.
Cheers Max.........Col

SilverCloud (#2038)

Location: SANTA MONICA ,CA.U.S.A.
Quote: "Fortune Favors the Brave"
Posted: 3154 days ago

Col Counsell definitely gets a TEN for his letter..The last two sentences are laugh out loud hysterical.
Thank you ever so much Col.....SilverCloud

shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 3154 days ago

max was too busy in his room playing nationstates the board game version.
:)

Alex Hardie (#1139)

Location: Alberta, Canada
Posted: 3154 days ago

Yes Col, your response is definitely receiving 10 out of 10 glazed doughnuts with a seemingly big bight removed from the upper right corner. Max might say: ‘If a doughnut is round, how can it have a corner?’. The response... A response to a question like that will take more brain power than I am willing to expend at the moment. ;o)

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 3154 days ago

Ah... such dissention amongst family... whoever should we believe? Afterall, one is a writer of fiction...

Still, the contradictions do make for very entertaining reading. :D

Machine Man subscriber John (#394)

Location: Work, Maryland, USA
Quote: "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes that cigar is ploughing your mother."
Posted: 3154 days ago

Yeah man, that was like when Napoleon defeated Custer at St. Petersburg for the honor of the Empire in 1945. Total Chaos.

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