Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pride Goeth Before A Summer

Growing up on Cape Cod in the summer is a very wonderful thing: beaches, bare feet, sailboats, bikes and...lawnmowers.

Once when I was thirteen or so, I was mowing the lawn with my family's Snapper riding mower (this one didn't have a steering wheel, but rather, strangely, handlebars like on a three-speed bike). I was listening to the radio in those pre-ipod days, so that meant wearing
these big headphones like the road-crews wear to block out noise and save their ears. Only these had a radio in them and speakers inside. So the Doobie Brothers and Reo Speedwagon were blaring in my ears and I had my 'cool' shades on and I was really in the groove. I was moving at a pretty good clip for a 13-year-old and was really thinking I was 'all that.' I remember in my pride imagining someone from a lawn service approaching me and begging me to work for them because I did such an amazing job and did it with such high-speed efficiency. Or maybe that cute girl from school might be driving by with her parents and notice my cool shades...and my great mowing technique, especially at these drag-racer speeds.

I was under the big apple tree in the front yard, the one with the classic swing made of a pine board and two ropes.  Moving at a very fast clip - too fast for under an apple tree with a swing, I reached across the 3-speed bike handlebars to sweep the swing to the side so as to mow under it. Of course being a gawky 13-year old, I missed, and the swing caught perfect hold of the handlebars. The engine kept propelling me forward, thus lifting the entire front end of the mower off the ground with me still on it. In a panic, I leaned forward to keep it from flipping over on top of me, and there I was, trapped: handlebars firmly engaged on the swing and me with my cool shades and giant headphones leaning against said handlebars at a 45 degree angle from the ground. I looked down over my shoulder, and there were the knobby tires grinding away, three or four inches under the soil now and spewing dirt five feet behind me like I was in a monster truck rally.

There was nothing for it: I had to bail out and save myself. I wriggled myself till my feet were on the seat and, gathering all my strength, I leaped away and rolled across the ground just in time to see the whole machine explode in a giant fireball that reached 50 feet in the air! The whole apple tree was set ablaze and the whole neighborhood turned out to watch it burn to the ground.

Ok, I made up that last part. But the real ending, the one where I realized I could hit the kill switch and walk away, is just so boring.

With either ending, though, I end up hanging my head in shame. It was embarrassing, and made worse by my thinking how cool I was. I learned a lesson that day about swagger: when you are swaggering your swaggiest, watch out! Danger may be just around the corner!

Pride is a dangerous thing. It messes with our heads and puffs us up. And clouds our judgment, even judgment about how fast is too fast on a piece of machinery with a sharp blade on the bottom spinning at 3000 rpm.

"Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. 
It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud." 
Proverbs 16:18-19


  1. Classic. Yes, the cool glasses, the geeky headphones. I can see it all in my memory's eye. Weren't the headphone's Brad's? I remember they had paint drips on them, too.

    But I must say I don't remember this colossal event! Of course, I wasn't present to witness it, so, there you go. But I can imagine it happening, for sure! Pride and all.

    Thanks for posting this here instead of a a comment on mine! haha

  2. :) Thank you, Chris, I chuckled heartily all the way through that. Great lessons are so well received when served up with a great story.

  3. Also, I can't believe you remembered that Snapper mower! We called it the Snapper, didn't we. AND you found a picture! Amazing.