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Column: Cut out this column if you like cutting the grass

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lifestyles Worthington, 56187

Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

By Ray Crippen

Autumn is The Great Season. September and October. And these days are the peak.

Autumn — the fall — brings wonderful and obvious things. The harvest. The red and yellow and gold and purple leaves. Cool nights. Days with brilliant blue skies arching from Virginia to California. Apples, and caramel apples. Pumpkins and scarecrows.

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There is a host of other, smaller joys often not included on Great Season lists. Lawn mowers can stash away their lawn mowers. I know; this stirs regret in some people. My mother liked mowing grass. Even in years when most thought she should not be mowing, she would mow. After it was clear that mowing was forbidden, she would watch for her chance and roll out the mower. I believe that for most people, however, the end of the mowing season is welcome.

The city of Worthington is still doing some mowing. They were in the parks and on the boulevards of Grand Avenue lately. There is no evidence — six-inch spears of grass — that mowing is being neglected anywhere. But the time for mowing is largely past.

David Dayton, eldest son of the George and Emma Dayton, whose house Worthington enjoys almost as though it were home — David Dayton was a healthy, active boy when his family moved to Fourth Avenue. Somewhere along the way I learned George Dayton kept a small flock of sheep through every summer to keep the grass down so the Dayton could play croquet. I thought, “Daytons were spoiling that kid.” He could have been spending some of his summer days mowing. It was later that I learned there may not have been a lawn mower in Worthington in that era. If anyone would have had a mower, it probably would have been George Dayton. There is a reference that says small flocks of sheep for keeping down the grass could be found along the avenues of most towns and cities. Sheep were penned in backyard barns, which were common. The Dayton House had one. There were neighbors who shared ownership of sheep.

The sheep grazed through the summers. In the fall — just at this time — flocks were herded along the streets or loaded into wagons and taken to the stockyards. Worthington’s stockyards bordered First Avenue near 12th Street.

People who didn’t have sheep would often use scythes. One dictionary says a scythe is “a hand tool for mowing grass.” People (kids) would go over a lawn with a hand scythe and a broom, sweeping up clippings as they went.

Of course I remember push mowers. I had a close acquaintance with them. I remember one sad experience, and I don’t apologize for it. Grampa was sick at that time. Gramma thought she would take up lawn mowing. I was rushed from the dugout as Designated Mower. I really was young. And small. And the mower was old. I struck out, but I did my best.

At the outbreak of World War II, I believe everyone at Worthington still had hand mowers. Mowers were pushed through cemeteries and parks and across every lawn. It was after the war’s end that power mowers came on our scene. Some people leaped for them, some held back. “I really don’t think a power mower does as good a job as a push mower…”

Paul (Slim) Markman made his own power mower. Paul lived along Clary Street. He had a small engine that he mounted on his hand mower. Some passers-by stopped to watch Paul mow.

The Courson brothers — two of them — set up a power mower factory in the quonset building, which still is used for a warehouse on the west side of 16th Street. The Courson mowers earned a good reputation, but everything was against their success. The Coursons had to buy mowers retail. They had no good way of distributing their mowers, even through the local area. There was no advertising or promotion. Toro carried the day.

Riding mowers? You know, I never have been on one.

I read of driverless automobiles upcoming. I think, “Uh-huh. You bet.” We still don’t have a lawnmower that lets you sit back with a remote that can direct a mower up and down the lawn and around the trees.

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.

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