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The day I got snapped by a comet

The coming of spring reminds me that I once got bitten by a Comet Snapper.


I was a student at the time and this lesson could be filed under Humility 101.


While I’d cut my teeth on push mowers, after my parents built their new brick home with the pasture-sized yard, Daddy invested in a riding mower. As the designated groundskeeper, I thought I struck a rather cavalier figure riding the Comet from roadside to back lot.


With a motorized ride, I now eschewed the push mower. Instead, I’d wheel the Snapper as close to bushes, trees and birdbath as possible to avoid the plebeian task of trimming by hand.


I became quite adept at maneuvering the riding mower, cutting the grass in large squares and whittling them down to size. Once a square became small enough, I’d have to reverse the mower in order to line up with the unmowed fescue, since the mower didn‘t have a sharp turning radius.


I could put that Snapper on grades steep enough to make Charlotte Motor Speedway seem flat. I could stop it on a dime, reverse it and pop it back to forward in a wheelie.


My expertise rose to the level that I was the king of my green monarchy. I was the Richard Petty of lawn tractor drivers. I was the Superman of landscaping.


I was a legend in my own mind.


How sudden is the fall of the mighty.


On this particular day, I had finished the front yard and was working on the back of the house. There were two swing sets in the backyard, an old one and the other fairly new.


I was mowing around the new swing set when cracks began to appear in my shiny armor. It was during a maneuver I’d done dozens of times before.


My habit was to mow right up to the swings to get as much of the grass as possible before backing up. On one fateful swipe forward I somehow missed the reverse, allowing the mower to continue under the swing.


The seat of the swing caught under the front of the mower, causing it to rise from the ground as the Snapper continued forward. It was like the famous photo of Roy Rogers on Trigger as the golden palomino stands on his hind legs while raising his forefeet high and handsome.


But I wasn’t imagining Roy and Trigger, especially when the swing finally let go and the Comet (and I) unceremoniously plopped back to the ground in a cloud of dust.


Undaunted, I looked all around and there was nobody in sight to witness my fall from grace.


I continued, somewhat shaken but not the least bit humbled. That would come a little later.


After finishing around the new swing set, I set my eyes on the older model. The metal A-frame had a cross arm missing on the far side but the near side was intact.


I was mowing under the cross arm as far as possible before backing out. But again when I attempted to shift into reverse, my hand must have slipped.


The mower continued forward under the cross arm. Before I could think to brake, the cross arm caught me in the middle and held me back.


Meanwhile, the mower kept ambling under the swing set as I was pushed back by the cross arm until there was no more mower for me to ride on. I sat there on the ground watching the rider-less mower cutting wide circles in the yard.


After rounding up the runaway Comet Snapper, I looked all around me and saw, to my great relief, that nobody was witness to my comical comeuppance.


But by the time I drove the mower into its shed, our relationship had completely changed. I dismounted, turned and left without so much as a pat on the Snapper’s backside.


From that day forward, mowing was just a chore and the Comet a mere implement.


And I was just a lowly lawn boy who had humbly gone back to push mowing.


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.