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The Wheel Fell Off

Well, the front wheel of the riding lawn mower fell off again Friday — third time this year. My husband, Gene, had hopped aboard the seat, cranked the big orange zero-turn lawn mower, and driven it down our long driveway to cut the grass at the front of our property. Ten minutes later, I happened to look out the laundry room door and saw him walking back up the hill toward the house carrying something. He looked hot and disgruntled.

I stepped out onto the front porch to ask what was wrong. That’s when I saw the big tire in his hand.

When he got close to the house, he threw the tire and the big metal frame into a flower bed and blurted out an expletive that would make my mother cringe. He then huffed by me and into the house, slamming the laundry room door behind him. Thud.

I stepped off the porch and studied the wheel. The long bolt that affixed the orange wheel frame to the decking of the lawnmower had sheared off again — just like the other two times. The first time it happened, we drove to Home Depot and bought a similar bolt. That bolt lasted about a month.

Then, we ordered the exact replacement bolt from an online shop and waited a week or more for the bolt to be delivered. When the package arrived, it contained two bolts, almost as if the vendor knew one would fail — as if the parts company was saying, “Here’s a spare, just in case.”

The actual repair process only takes about an hour, but Gene and I are starting to believe our efforts are in vain — that we are throwing away our money, wasting time, and getting our hands dirty and greasy for nothing.

I understand my husband’s frustration. We’ve gotten a lot of rain recently, and the grass is growing like weeds, which is kind of funny since a lot of our turf areas are actually weeds, not grass. It’s been hard to keep up with the grass cutting, even when the riding lawnmower is functioning properly with four working, attached wheels.

After Friday’s wheel incident, I followed Gene into the house.

“So . . . what happened?” I asked gently. “I was driving along, then all of a sudden, the ride got really bumpy,” he said. “Next thing I know, the wheel rolled away from the lawnmower at a 45 degree and fell over in the grass.”

I envisioned the wheel rolling away on its own — going rogue. Of course, I dared not laugh.

We all encounter periods when things just start breaking or falling apart. We’ve been on a roll recently. Looking back, I think it all started in the summer when I realized that the radio and speakers weren’t working in the car due to a blown out amplifier. We fixed it with a part we ordered off of eBay. Since then, it has been one thing after another. We have a cracked windshield that needs to be replaced, a big tree that fell during a recent storm that needs to be cut up and burned, an overhead light fixture that sizzles when we flip the wall switch, a Weed Eater trimmer that won’t advance its twine, a washing machine with a malfunctioning door, an air conditioner that has decided not to blow out cool air, and now the riding lawn mower is out of commission — again.

It’s hard to work full-time and manage all the broken stuff around here sometimes. Our weekends consist of fixing broken things then catching up with the backlog of chores. It can be exhausting at times.

When my father was alive, he often joked that he “was going to take that chainsaw and throw it out into the river,” or “take that trolling motor and throw it into the river.” Whatever he was frustrated with at the time, that’s what he noted he was going to hurl into the deep waters of the Ocmulgee. It was just his way of voicing his aggravation. He never really threw anything in the river — well, not that I’m aware of.

I’ve witnessed Gene get so annoyed with a project that he slung his tools into the woods. I eased into the woods and retrieved them.

When something fails or an unexpected problem arises after a laborious, tiring process, people often use the idiom, “then the wheels fell off,” to describe the disaster. The irony of our most recent lawnmower story is that the wheel actually fell off — no idiom required to describe that fiasco. Gene was simply riding along, and then the wheel fell off — literally — for the third time this year. Ugh!

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