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Published March 3, 2020


The curse of the small engine

By John Toth / The Bulletin

Spring is in the air, and the pesky gas-powered yard equipment will soon go into high gear again – we hope.

“Turn the key,” he ordered. “Let’s see what this baby will do.”

That was the signal to fire up the riding lawn mower. The last time I did that the results were – nothing.

This is one reason I dislike small engines. They break, and I don’t know what’s wrong with them. It’s a helpless feeling when a riding lawn mower stops in the middle of the yard and refuses to budge. Now what? How am I going to get it back to the garage?

I got so frustrated that I started buying battery-operated mowers and trimmers. They are simpler, but they are also less powerful, and the batteries are very expensive. Plus, they run out of power and take hours to recharge. It’s not like I can just pour more electricity into them from a container.

Harold to the rescue. He is my brother-in-law from Arizona and has had a lot of experience with these things. I haven’t seen a small engine, or just about anything else, that he could not fix.

I am so bad with small engines that when one of my trimmers broke, I just bought another one. But I couldn’t bear to throw the broken ones away, so I have stored them in a backyard shed. To Harold, that shed is a goldmine. If we would have had time while he was here, I’d have all those trimmers running right now.

But we had bigger, more important goals as we tackled the small-engine curse in the Toth household. I don’t know how or why it started, but I suspect that one of my former neighbors put it on me after I mowed my lawn one early Sunday morning. Harold would not rest until the curse was lifted.

The generator I bought years ago is one of the victims of this curse.

It became very sick. I could tell. It wouldn’t start. It may have been my fault. I didn’t pay much attention to it over the years. It took me over a year to even remove it from its box. I bought it because it was a good deal, and then it sort of sat there, waiting for a power outage.

It never got a real good workout. One time during a tropical storm, the power actually went out. I was in the process of getting the extension cords hooked up to it when the power came back on.

You’re supposed to run these things periodically to keep the insides from gumming up. I, of course, didn’t pay much attention to that. It only took a couple of days, and some new parts, including a carburetor, to get it healthy and ungummed.

Then it was time to turn it on. A couple of pulls, and the new and improved generator was purring like a very loud cat. Sweet success.

The riding lawn mower was another project we tackled. I took the deck off of it about six months ago because the drive belt broke, and over the months I forgot how I did it. Thank goodness for YouTube.
After reconnecting everything and a tune-up, it was time to insert the key and turn this baby on. It was the sound of perfection. Music to my ears – very loud music.

Promise: I plan to pay more attention to all my yard and power equipment. Harold made me realize that small engines are our friends.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)