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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Lawn Mowing Adventures

Mike Ruby
A Muscatine resident for over forty years, Mike Ruby had careers both as a teacher at Muscatine High school and as a writer for nonprofit companies. Now retired, Ruby continues to cultivate his love for writing by contributing monthly Ruby's Reflections to Discover Muscatine newspaper.

Muscatine Living

At a very young age, one of my chores was getting on my hands and knees with hand clippers, trimming in places where the lawn mower could not reach. By age 11, I usually got stuck mowing our lawn because my older brother learned there was money to be made by mowing neighbors’ lawns.

By age 12, I landed a couple of small mowing jobs of my own. Our lawn mower, with the trusty Briggs & Stratton engine, certainly got a workout cutting several lawns each week. We had to pay for the gas and blade sharpening since Dad reminded us that was part of our business overhead.

One day, an elderly neighbor called, asking if one of the Ruby boys would be interested in mowing his lawn. He would pay $1 to mow and 75 cents to trim. That was more than I typically earned from other mowing jobs, so I grabbed the opportunity.

Mowing his small front yard was a breeze. The back yard was a different story. Even though it looked like something out of a magazine, with beautiful flower gardens, statues, fountains, and a goldfish pond, it was badly in need of trimming. Mowing around the beds without getting grass clippings in them or in the pond was a challenge, but nothing compared to the several hundred linear feet of trimming around the elaborate landscape. I was on my hands and knees for over 2 hours clutching those cussed hand clippers, vowing I’d never do his lawn again for any amount of money.

My hands were blistered and my knees ached, but I finally finished. Mr. Smith complimented me on the nice job I did and gave me the agreed $1.75. He asked me if I’d like to have a permanent job and I stammered, telling a white lie that I had all of the lawn mowing jobs I could handle. I heard him mumble, “Kids just don’t want to work these days.” I didn’t have the nerve to tell him the real reason I declined his offer was because of the overwhelming amount of trimming.

Today, when I’m working in my own yard, I sometimes recall those days when I was in the lawn mowing business, typically earning 75 cents to $1.25 a yard. Those memories are pleasant, with the exception of the one and only time I mowed and trimmed Mr. Smith’s lawn.

What chore memories do you have as a kid?

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