The Cracker Barrel: The reel thing

Musings from Pequot Lakes resident Craig Nagel

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The whole thing started many years ago: 20 at least, and maybe 30.

I can’t remember what provoked her to say it, but one day my wife mentioned that someday she’d like to get an old-fashioned reel-type lawn mower.

The kind you walk behind and push. The kind with no motor, powered only by the person pushing it.

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When I asked her why she wanted such a device, she mentioned things like her weariness of inhaling gas exhaust, not enjoying the ear-splitting noise of a gasoline engine, worrying about cutting off one of her toes or fileting a nest of baby rabbits, and having an otherwise beautiful world reduced for an hour or more to an ugly sphere of noise and pollution.

Being of the male gender, I naturally responded with a dismissive chortle.


“You have no idea what a pain it is to cut grass with an old push mower,” I said. “Everything takes way longer, you bust your back pushing the stupid thing, and unless you keep the blades razor sharp, you have to go over everything two or three times. Trust me - I used to have to cut our grass with one of them when I was a kid.”

“So did I,” she replied. “And I loved it!”

To which I made mention of the tiny size of the lawn in front of the house she’d grown up in near Seattle, and the fact that her mowing was probably confined to a lawn full of nicely tended grass instead of the duke’s mixture of dandelions, crab grass and creeping Charlie comprising our own.

Given the fact that we’d only been married 20 or 30 years at the time, my wife chose to let my rebuttal slide, and let the issue go for another decade before bringing it up again.

“I’d really like to get a reel-type lawn mower,” she said.

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“Just to cut the terrace. Just a small part of the whole lawn. Even if it’s hard work.”

Thus it was, after holding out for a final few years, I recently bowed to my beloved’s yearnings and bought her the machine of her dreams: a bright yellow, five-bladed, 16-inch, Yardworks-brand, reel-type push mower with cutting-height adjustment handles and a pair of trailing wheels to keep things running level.


The entire shebang cost just over a hundred bucks and required five or 10 minutes of final assembly.

Since getting the mower, my wife has happily mowed the terrace three or four times. I say “happily” because I have heard her humming songs over the clickety-click sound of the lawn mower blades going round.

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Other than that, there’s no noise of an engine running, no noxious exhaust fumes filling the air, and no danger of toes being amputated or projectiles hurled through house windows by motor-driven machinery.

I know what some of you are thinking. You love your internal combustion riding mower or your new electric walk-behind. I get it.

A tiny hand-pushed lawn mower is never going to do for cutting multi-acred yards or working on severe slopes. No argument.

But I must point out that my wife’s persistence taught me something.

I’ve learned from her that the job of trimming grass can actually be fun. I’ve enjoyed watching her take pride in taking good care of our terrace.

And I get a secret kick out of seeing her brush the grass clippings off the blades of her mower when she’s done mowing, and then carefully spritz each blade with WD-40 before putting the mower under roof and draping it with a waterproof tarp.


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Craig Nagel, Columnist

My dear lady loves her lawn mower. And I love my lady. End of story.

Collections of Craig Nagel’s columns are available at

Opinion by Craig Nagel
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