A Butt-butt Lawn Mower The Real Dirt By Mike Klingaman

June 14, 1992

Father's Day is near, and here is what I want:

A lawn mower.

Not just any mower, mind you. No rotary, reel-type or electric mower for me. I've tried them all. It's time to go back to basics. I want an old-fashioned mower, the dependable kind of ages past.

My dream machine would have big, sad eyes and soft, floppy ears.

What I want is a goat.

Give me a goat and I'll never mow again. I'll simply tether the beast to a picket peg and let it nibble away.

Livestock helped trim our lawns until the Industrial Revolution. Now we spend millions of dollars on high-tech mowers that guzzle our resources, pollute our environment and sully our weekends with grass-cutting chores.

Goats don't do any of that. Nor do they require tuneups.

There are other advantages to using goats for lawn care:

* Unlike mowers, goats don't take 10 minutes to start.

* Goats don't use gas. In fact, they probably make some of their own.

* Goats come with their own grass-catching bags, called stomachs. And they turn lawn clippings into garden fertilizer. Show me a mower that does that.

* Goats are, by nature, self-propelled. Most walk-behind mowers are not.

* Goats can trim wet grass. Other mowers cannot.

Well, I'm sold. How much do goats cost? Can you buy one at Sears?

Of course, I'll ask the neighbors before acquiring a goat. But they won't mind. Though developers are knocking at the door, ours is still a rural community. There are chickens to our left and cows to our right. A goat would fit right in.

My wife wants a goat, as long as it doesn't eat her laundry. Goats have been known to rip shirts from clotheslines and chew them up. But so have lawn mowers. Once, while cutting the grass, I tangled with a low-hanging shirt and sucked it right off the line. The mower sputtered and stopped, but not before reducing my best dress shirt to a cleaning rag.

When I polled the rest of the family on goats, the response was favorable. Katydid the dog wagged her tail and woofed. Beth the Fifth-Grader wants a goat that will butt the 9-year-old boy across the street. And Timmy the cat votes for anything that will put milk on the table.

Me, I'm thrilled at the prospect of having weekends free. It takes three hours to cut the grass, because of the trees and shrubs scattered randomly about the lawn. So I spend much of my time banging the mower into the trunks of trees, and my head into their low-hanging branches.

Those scalpings take their toll. By day's end, covered with sweat and bandages, I find myself mowing at full speed with a frightening ferocity, ricocheting off of rocks and trees with absolutely no thought of danger. In short, I have turned into Lawn Mower Man, the maniacal glint in my eye reminiscent of a half-crazed character in any Stephen King tale.

No more. On Father's Day, I hope to retire my gas can forever.

I'll miss the excitement of mowing over those nests of ground wasps, and the thrill of hitting the septic tank cap with a B-R-R-A-A-N-G. I'll miss mowing down the giant mushrooms that sprout on the lawn, chopping them into bite-sized pieces so that the lawn resembles a restaurant salad bar gone berserk.

I'll miss the adventure of running out of fuel at the bottom of the hill when the gas can is at the top. I'll miss the challenge of trying to pour gas into the mower without spilling it on the grass, only to have it slobber down the spout, dribble onto the lawn and turn the grass brown.

I'll miss all the little joys that go with the job, like mowing over doggy piles and mole mounds, stepping in hidden rabbit holes and striking the raised roots of the maple tree that sit 2 inches above ground.

The yard has been getting my goat for years. It's time I got a goat of my own.

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