The Lawn Ranger | March 11, 2021

Over the past week, my husband has said at least a dozen times, “I guess I’d better get the garden tractor tuned up.”  This has been both a commentary on the beautiful springtime weather and also a head’s up because lawn mowing is technically my job.  It’s technically my job because I continuously pronounce it to be so, even though Kyle ends up doing it at least half the time.

I decided that lawn mowing was my job when we moved out to the country, my father-in-law gifted us the garden tractor, and I, a BIG FAN of golf carts and bumper cars, wanted a reason to drive it.  This was notwithstanding the fact that I had never, ever, not once mowed a lawn.  I once pushed around one of those old-timey non-electric mowers, but it was at Bonanzaville (a history museum complex in West Fargo) and I’m pretty sure both the machine and I were on gravel.

Kyle’s a pretty easy-going guy who (wisely) never questions my intentions (or skill), and so when I announced I was going to mow the lawn that first time he just filled the tractor up with gas and wandered off to go putter around with the edger.  I called him back about five minutes later to show me how to turn the mower on (touch it on the arm and tell it it’s funny).

After a few attempts to get it started (turned out I had to step on a lever while turning the key) and a seat adjustment (also turned out I needed to be sitting when I pressed in the lever, and someone unnamed but was Kyle set the seat for his 6’3” self and not my 5’2” me-ness), the engine finally revved forth and I was off and riding.

As I pulled away, Kyle shouted, “It’s on a Three,” which didn’t mean anything to me so I gave him a thumbs-up.  He also shouted something else and made a motion like he was turning a different lever, but by that point I was across the yard and getting ready to put my mowing strategy into action.  Specifically, my Zamboni method.  I had watched more than enough hockey games – and hockey game intermissions – to know that all Zamboni drivers took the same route: circle the boards, make a stripe down the middle, and then ring the outer edge of the board line and the middle stripe until the ice is covered.

I had just started “circling the boards” when Kyle jogged up to me and motioned to another lever, which I pushed.  Here’s another fact: the tractor is just a vehicle until you put the actual mower blades down.  Who knew.  I went back to mowing in earnest.

I should probably note here that we live on six acres.  I don’t know how long it takes to mow a normal-sized yard (in the words of Lucille Bluth, “I mean it’s one banana, Michael.  What could it cost, $10?”), but it took me almost seven hours to complete ours.  Part of the issue was that I had to stop every fifteen feet and pick up a Nerf dart.  Also, it turns out the Zamboni method works great on ice, but terrible on a yard with all sorts of sections and twists and turns.  And finally, I had no idea where the mower blades were actually located underneath the tractor, and so I mowed and re-mowed the same grass several times.

Kyle continued to be very supportive of my efforts, bringing me iced tea and offering to spell me off and telling the neighbor kid to hush when he loudly pointed out that if I took any longer the grass would start to grow back.  When it was done, I took a picture of my groomed(?) lawn and sent it to my best friend, who was very impressed and suggested that I find a lawn service.

I did not find a lawn service.  Now, many years later, I’m a mowing expert.  I know that “It’s on a Three” is a blade depth setting, and if I go down to a Two, it will cut the grass two inches high.  I know enough to say things like, “Yeah, if I ever buy another mower it’s going to be a zero-turn.”  I know that you can just mow over Nerf bullets left in the yard and the kids are none the wiser.  Most importantly, I know the exact right path that gets the grass cut in a little over two hours.

A photo of me being a mowing expert is above.  I’m such an expert that I’m wearing flip-flips, which is ill-advised because grass blades get shot up onto your feet and the mower itself throws some pretty good heat.

There’s a lot of nice news to share this week – including a new definition of a “LOAN,” a black-footed ferret, and a bunch of North Dakotans competing on a national scale.  Read on.

Cavalier’s Lorna Ratchenski started the Love One Another Now program – also known as LOAN – in 2014 in order to provide K-12 students with much-needed clothing, school supplies, winter gear,s and even prom dresses…and the program has grown to such a degree that they now operate a free “store” filled with donations. (Grand Forks Herald)

McVay Elementary is taking their student pantry to the next level with seven totes of shoes, outdoor gear, and clothes donated by Wise Penny kids in need. (Williston Herald)

Grand Forks’ Sarah Hong is one of 24 violinists age 16-19 to play in the National Youth Orchestra in New York this summer. (Grand Forks Herald)

Four members of the Dickinson Police Department – one in communications and the other three officers – were honored with life saving awards after reviving a man who was not breathing. (Dickinson Press)

Mayville’s Walter Rindy is 104 years old, and is now one of only a few people to be honored as being a member of the American Legion for 75 consecutive years. (Fargo Forum)

A new podcast by Fargo’s Joe Williams features the stories of 30 Native artists on display at the Plains Art Museum. (Fargo Forum)

Evie and Kate Janousek, two sisters from Grand Forks, took the national trapshooting Handicap Championship and the Sub-junior Handicap Championship in Tucson, Arizona. (Grand Forks Herald)

The Magic City Blessing Bank – the only place in town where those in need can get personal care items – has already helped 2,300 people with 20,000 goods. (KX Net)

Sunrise Elementary in Bismarck created some beautiful messages to thank their first responder heroes. (KX Net)

The Maah Daah Hey Trail at Theodore Roosevelt National Park has been named Midwest Living’s Best Bike Trail in the Midwest. (KX Net)

Alexander’s Ben Novak was a part of the team that cloned the (no longer) extinct black-footed ferret. (McKenzie County Farmer)

Did you know that North Dakota has the best student-to-counselor ratio in the country? (Wahpeton Daily News)

Crosby’s Noah Knudson is living his best life thanks to a world-changing kidney donation from Pastor Zach Shipman. (Fargo Forum)

Bismarck’s Derrick Fehr lost his wedding ring 18 years ago, and had it returned last week thanks to a whole bunch of people in Hillsboro and Reynolds. (Hillsboro Banner)

I wish Glen Ullin’s Marie Pflugrad didn’t need to write a children’s book to help victims of sexual abuse, but I’m glad she did. (KX Net)

A group of South Heart sixth, seventh, and eighth graders are headed to nationals as a part of the Future City competition, in which students build a city on the moon. (Dickinson Press)

Congratulations to the Happy Hooligans, who have been named the Air Force Outstanding Unit for the 22nd time! (Devils Lake Journal)

(Like Amanda Silverman Kosior and/or North Dakota Nice?  Check out last week’s tale about puttering.)

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