Dead man’s handle

The rain relented and the grass had dried sufficiently to allow for an attempt to cut it.

For years, the garden would have been attacked with a rotary mower that had a 325 cc Briggs and Stratton engine. It was indestructible, there was nothing it would not cut. My father would point out that it had an engine larger than many motor cycles. The exhaust pipe would get burning hot and there would have been steady puffs of blue smoke.

The dangers of lawn mowers were always emphasized, but no-one thought there was a serious threat from something so domestic.

It was the experience of clerical colleagues that made me realize that cutting the grass could have life-changing implications.

There was one whose cylinder mower became clogged with damp grass. The blades would not turn and he neglected to disengage the gear before attempting to free the mechanism. The blades were loosened and their turn took with them the tops of two of his fingers.

Worse than that experience was that of one of those who had been through college with me. Cutting the lawn of his house in rural Ireland one afternoon, he put his rotary mower over his foot, severing his big toe.

Anaesthetised by shock, he picked up the toe, got into his car, and drove to the post office. The postmistress drove him to the hospital where he hoped they would be able to reattach the lost toe. The damage was such that there was nothing that could be done other than to bandage the wound. It took him weeks to learn to walk again.

Approaching the lawn mower with appropriate respect today, I realised that it was years since I had last used a petrol lawn mower.  I took care to check the petrol tank was well-filled, and that the spark plug clean, and I was cautious not to flood the engine. Repeated pulls of the starting cord were of no avail. The engine would not fire.

My sister, the usual gardener, suggested I brought the mower too the back door.

With her leg in plaster, it seemed unlikely that the mower would be more responsive to her efforts, but I brought the mower so she could reach it from her wheelchair.

Holding a yellow bar against the handle, a short tug from her started the engine. The yellow bar acted as a dead man’s handle, without it being held, the mower would not start.

What past injuries might have been avoided by such a device?

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One Response to Dead man’s handle

  1. Scrobs says:

    Yes, a friend took off the tip of a finger in exactly the same way! He really was in agony for several days!

    I was once just as stupid, using a garden shredder! There was a blockage, and while I normally just shoved a stick down the top to get it moving, this time I was a bit lazy and didn’t turn off the juice! The whole thing started immediately, fell over, broke in half and flung bits of metal in all directions, which could have been just awful…

    As my dad used to say, ‘If the dog hadn’t stopped to pee…’!

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