Scott Hollifield: Mowing grass becomes an electrifying experience

The decision to go electric was not made lightly.

It’s for the best, I told myself as I stood in the store and stared at an 80-volt brushless lithium ion cordless electric lawnmower. Yes, said my brain, it is best for the planet, best for the yards I now find myself maintaining and, while on sale, best for a yard-maintaining journalist’s paycheck that hasn’t seen a significant upward bump since a Bush was in the White House. And I am not saying which Bush.

Still, I was having difficulty stepping away – even baby-stepping away – from a lifelong relationship with fossil fuels and combustion engines.

Petroleum put food on my plate and shoes on my feet. My father went to work every day across the creek from our house to what we called “the plant,” where 18-wheelers brought petroleum products in from the terminal to fill the big, above-ground tanks. Then smaller trucks took the products from the big tanks to homes and businesses to keep people warm and cars zipping along. From an early age, I learned what, in retrospect, turned out to be terrible lessons from an environmental standpoint:

Is the gravel road too dusty? Oil it down.

Are you finished with those paintbrushes? Soak ‘em in gasoline.

You want to burn down that rotting shed full of wasps’ nests and copperheads? Kerosene will do the trick.

Why, is there nothing these magic elixirs 650 million years in the making can’t do? Thank you for your service, dinosaurs.

(Note: Petroleum and crude oil actually formed from plants and animals that predate dinosaurs, but I just wanted to give a shout out to dinosaurs.)

And could I stray from the combustion engine that had meant so much to me in my formative years? A four-horsepower Briggs & Stratton motor on a minibike gave me my first real taste of high-speed (at least for a 7-year-old) freedom as well as a face full of gravel on occasion. I will always remember the wind in my hair, the bugs in my teeth and the time the chain caught the cuff of my Tough Skins jeans and I recreated Evel Knievel’s spill at Caesars Palace.

And what about the durability of this fancy electric grass-cutting machine, considering it would be used by a man who is admittedly hard on equipment? In my adult life, at the places I’ve rented, owned or hung around until asked to leave, I’ve burned through two riding mowers, four or five push mowers, an undetermined number of weed trimmers and stripped, dented or lost nearly everything else I borrowed.

Could this mower take the punishment? To be honest, the first one could not.

I took the electric plunge, bought the mower, brought it home, assembled the parts that needed to be assembled, charged the battery to full capacity and took a few self-propelled spins around the yard until it would not self-propel anymore, which was about six minutes after I started.

Neither the manual nor Youtube could tell me how to fix it, so I took it back, got another one, brought it home, followed the same steps and commenced to mowing.

The result was, in a word, electrifying. I did the front yard on one battery charge, with no oil, no gas, no pull starting and very little cussing, aside from when I stepped on a landmine left behind by one of the dogs.

A charge later and I mowed the hill in back, cutting through some of those thick, tough weeds near the fence line with no problem. All the while, “Electric Avenue” played on a loop in my head (“We gonna rock down to...”).

I’m a little more than month into going electric yard-wise and so far, so good. Am I now ready to replace the old pickup truck with an environmentally friendly Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf or Tesla? Not quite.

Baby steps. Baby steps.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at rhollifield@mcdowellnews.com.

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