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in: Travel & Leisure

June 21, 2014 Last updated: October 22, 2018

An Ode to Lawn Mowing from 1928

vintage men mowing lawn early 1900s

Editor’s note: This is an editorial from The Oregonian newspaper, from June 21, 1928. Its author offers a poetic tribute to mowing the lawn…or at least watching someone else mow it!

It is passing difficult to arouse in the younger generation the slightest enthusiasm for the mowing of lawns. This proves, if anything, that the mechanical age is far advanced. There was a time, and well within the memory of men whose hair is but slightly frosted, when a lawn-mower would have seemed to any boy the most desirable of mechanical marvels, conferring great prestige upon its possessor. But, look you, a lad leaps into his plane and rides the wind to Europe or Australia. A girl is wafted to Wales. You turn a knob here and press a button there and you hear the crew of the Italia calling from the far northern ice, where white bears come shuffling down the bergs. Youth simply isn’t interested in lawn-mowers any longer. As novelties, as triumphs of the mechanic’s exacting science, they are outworn. But still the lawn needs cutting, for grass will grow. It is a marked trait of lawns to require mowing.

In certain lands, so one has read, the labor of human hands is so cheaply priced that lawns are plucked, not cut. Blade by blade the grass is broken away, while the bronze backs of the toiling coolies glisten in the sun. And, of course, there is the epic story of the calf, whose bucolic owner, lately domiciled in town, vowed his intent to “hitch his calf right here in this front lawn, and let him chaw, and chaw, and chaw, till the hull darn thing is chawn.” Neither of these otherwise excellent methods is quite suited to the times, and our standards of living, we beg of you to observe. Labor is not held so cheaply here, heaven be thanked, while as for calves, and we intend no pun, they aren’t hitched anywhere any longer, least of all at home on the lawn. So naught remains to us save the neglected lawn-mower which, even though it be dulled by neighborly borrowings, is nevertheless a considerable improvement upon the coolie and calf methods.

It is possible to derive a great deal of beneficial exercise and philosophical satisfaction from the mowing of lawns. The grass lies in straight, clean swaths, and the humming of the blades hath ever a drowsy, slumberous sound. The mower is skillfully piloted around flower beds and shrubs, and it answers the helm as nervously as a racing yacht. The operator bends honestly to the handle, while beads of joyous perspiration shape on his brow, and follows the device with hasty step. He is a good man, or a loyal boy, who can keep up with a lawn-mower in full career. It is eager to be yonder. It hungers for the clover down wind. Aye, a goodly and philosophic exercise and pastime, and all the more so if it be viewed from the shade of a maple, by one inclined to reverie. There is nothing so conducive to day dreaming, to a certain fondness and gentleness of thought, as the meditative viewing of a lawn-mower actively operated by another. In an hour the lawn will be all level and slightly, having a texture as of velvet. Let him take his happiness while he may, and let him thank providence that within a week or some such matter the grass shall have its stature again.

There is a perfectly impossible bumble bee in the delphinium. That flash of molten color was a humming bird in passage. Is there aught to compare with the scent of blossomed clover, when one is near to it – when one plays the idler? Nevertheless it is a hard life, for the lawn-mower has turned the corner and now is cutting grass to westward of the house. And, really to enjoy the mowing of the lawn, one must up and loiter after.