Thursday, July 28, 2005

... so I decided to go for a swim.

It was a beautiful day today. It got a little warm, but fortunately we have a swimmin' hole to take away the heat. It's not really a hole, it's a pond. The pond was built for swimming with a sand bottom and beach. I know that sounds a bit bizarre to some of you city folk, but it's true. One can swim in a body of water without chlorine and cement walls. The water isn't crystal clear, but it serves it's purpose. The pond is in the back corner of the yard with decorative rock along the shorelines reaching up to the grass around it. There is a man-made hill behind the water giving the area a beautiful background. And we have fun in it.

Anyway, after I ran some errands today, I came home to finish mowing the lawn. My wife ran out of daylight last night, so I decided to finish up behind the kids' swing set, under the apple trees and around the pond. My rider mower has held up fairly well over the past seven years, but it has it's problems. One of the current problems is a tire with a slow leak. So before I start up the mower, I have to push it up to the air compressor to reinflate the flat tire. The easiest way to do this is by using the steering wheel, but I try to avoid that, thinking I'll break the wheel off the steering column one of these days.

Today as I started mowing, the steering wheel began to act up. It was as if the wheel occasionally wouldn't catch the steering mechanism. As a result, a couple of times when I turned the wheel, the mower didn't turn right away. It took an extra 1/2 revolution of the steering wheel to actually get the mower to turn.

"Great!" I told myself, "One more thing to try to fix today. I'll wait until I finish and then see if there's something loose in the steering."

I really didn't need something else to fix today. The morning was busy and I had to be gone later in the afternoon. But I put that off and tried to get the mowing done. Mowing around the pond took a little extra care since the steering wasn't always very trustworthy. There was just one more pass to do, so I turned to the right away from the hill. Then the mower decided that it liked turning right. I tugged left on the steering, but it didn't catch. I knew it would though. I had all confidence that the machine would turn back to the left. But it kept veering to the right. And now I could see where I would end up if that steering never did catch -- the water.

From that point it was kind of like a slow-motion effect. It was almost like Wile E. Coyote had discarded one of those giant Acme magnets in the bottom of the pond, pulling the mower and myself right toward it. I was still cranking the wheel to the left waiting for the inevitable catch, when the right front tire ran onto the decorator rocks around the water's edge. I leaned left, but to no avail. The steering never did correct and the lawn tractor tipped and hit the water on it's right side.

As we went in, I realized two things: first, that I didn't want to let the tractor come down on top of me and second, I didn't want to be anywhere near spinning mower blades as they were turned up and over. So as I tipped, I reached down and turned the key, shutting off the engine and blades. Then I pushed myself off the seat as I fell in, away from the sinking mower. When my head resurfaced, I looked behind me. There was no sign of the mower. It figured that I'd drive it into the deep end of the pond!

I swam to shore doing a mental inventory of all the things that had just been messed up; besides the damage to the pond and the mower, that is. I got my wallet out of my back pocket and set it in the sun to dry. My keys were gritty and sticky from the Altoids tin which had filled and seeped sugary fluid all over the contents of my right front pocket. Then a few minutes later I realized that I still had my cell phone in my left front pocket! I'm still working on drying that out. But no problems with me, aside from a small scratch on my finger that likely had happened as I continued to try to turn that blasted wheel.

I went to the house to let my wife know what had happened. I think it took a few minutes before it all really sunk in (if you'll pardon the expression). Then the next piece of work was to figure out how to get the mower out of our pond. Luckily I found a guy from church with a chain and a 4-wheel drive pickup. I played Police Crime Scene Diver and found the mower sitting on it's headlights about six or seven feet down. After a few dives, I managed to hook a chain around the rear axle and we pulled the thing out with the pickup.

Right now it sits in the backyard where we took the chain from around its axle. There are a few chunks of muck from the pond bottom in the vents, but other than that it doesn't look too bad. I'll try to dry it out and see if I can salvage it.

Oh yeah, I checked the steering mechanism when we got it out of the pond... now it works!

I was very blessed not to have suffered any injuries in all this, and I am extremely grateful that God was watching out for me. The rest of the lawn can wait until Monday!

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