The Reel Mower

Stupid Things I Do

Mark Starlin
5 min readOct 11, 2023


Ryan Nicoll

Trying to tame nature is a fool’s game. You can’t win. Yet I diligently go out and do yard work every week. My yard laughs and immediately starts reclaiming its wildness. Usually, before I finish.

My yard has a ridiculous number of trees. We rent our house. Otherwise, I would pay to have most of them cut down and made into picnic tables, bookcases, 2X4s, and firewood. Unfortunately, none of the trees are good guitar wood. So they can’t be made into something of great artistic value. But I would gladly see them made into sheds to store people’s extra junk. Those trees are my nemeses.

I am no tree expert, but I do know all of the trees come from the Stupid Messy Tree family. The worst offenders are the Longleaf Pines. The demons of the tree world that continually rain pine straw, pine cones, twigs, sticks, and branches on my lawn and driveway like they are possessed. Unleashing needles with extra fury in the fall. They rain enough pine straw weekly to keep the Pinehurst Golf Course supplied with mulch for a year.

I also have giant Oaks that attempt to keep up with the Pines and shower the yard with acorns, twigs, and sticks. Then there are some huge 80-foot-tall monstrosities. These brutes must not have gone to tree school. They don’t know they are only supposed to drop their leaves in the fall. Nope, they insist on dropping long, narrow, rake-resistant leaves all year round. Not to mention sticks, twigs, and branches.

So I do what I call the blow mow. Basically, I have to blow the lawn with a leaf blower before I can mow it. Not that I have much grass. It is mainly weeds because the tree’s shade keeps the yard continually shaded, making it hard to grow grass. I do have a nice section of grass near the sidewalk where the tree cover hasn’t reached. Yet.

Anyway, at the start of the mowing season this year (I get a month off in January when the trees and weeds all take a nap and energize themselves for the following season of lawn destruction), I pulled my gas mower out of the shed full of extra junk, gassed it up and pulled the cord. Nothing. I tried again. And again. I yanked that cord harder than a skydiver whose parachute wouldn’t open. Over and over, I yanked, until I finally admitted defeat.