The Empty Gas Tank

The mower gave a sputter, warning me it was about to die. At least this would not a permanent death, only the amount of time it would take me to battle one of my archnemeses – my EPA mandated no-vent plastic gasoline can.

Lawn Boy – The Early Years

In my early teens, my first side hustle was mowing a few of my neighbors’ lawns in our cul-de-sac on Ravensworth Road in Taylors, South Carolina. Mr. Parrot was one of the neighbors and lived across the street. He drove a white Cadillac that seemed to be 40 feet long. It would have looked good with horns on the hood.

The author and his brother. Mr. Parrot's Caddy in the background.

The author and his brother with Mr. Parrot’s Caddy in the background.

Mr. Cudd was another customer/neighbor and lived next door to Mr. Parrot. He owned either an Oldsmobile or Buick and drove it like a bat out of hell.  The Cudd’s driveway was at the end of the cul-de-sac, and he didn’t have to turn at all to make into his driveway, so he always came in hot. Kinda reminded me of a jet landing on an aircraft carrier, coming in at full speed and stopping suddenly when the tailhook snags the plane.

The Cudds and Parrots shared a front yard in that they didn’t have any kind of fence or boundary delineating the property line. So, for the grass cut to look best, I usually mowed both of these front yards at the same time. I’d then finish up with Mr. Parrot’s backyard.

The $12 I made for this effort was a sweet deal for Mr. Cudd. See, in the five or six years I mowed their lawns, Mr. Parrot always paid me for the job. Now, I have no idea if Mr. Cudd reimbursed Mr. Parrot or if Mr. Parrot thought Mr. Cudd was slipping me some cash for his part. I’d bet Mr. Parrot knew he was paying me for the whole shebang. Occasionally, I would cut the Cudd’s back yard, but Mrs. Cudd would pay me on those days and only for the backyard. I think that was a $5 effort, maybe $7,

Back then, my mower (technically Dad’s) was a Snapper push mower, with a fancy self-propelled option. The standard procedure before starting the mower was supposed to be: check the oil and then check the gas. I was pretty good about this, but occasionally I’d forget and run out of gas. This was more of a pain if ran out in the back corner of the Parrot’s back yard. I’d grumble a few bad words and then have to walk back to my house to retrieve the gas can. Not a big deal, just annoying. At least it was a nice old-fashioned easy pouring gas gan. I believe it was metal, too.

Eventually, I went off to college and turned my lawn boy business over to my younger brother. Soon thereafter, my dad upgraded the old push mower to a rider – a John Deere even! I was not happy!

Lawn Boy – These Days

These days, I’m probably older than Mr. Parrot was back in the ’80s, and I still enjoy mowing the grass, most of the time. Not too long ago, my parents downsized their house and yard, and my father passed the latest Fowler Family John Deere riding mower to me. This time it was my brother who was not happy! I had more grass, though.

The Arch Nemesis

The Archnemesis

At the same time, I decided it would be a good idea to upgrade my ancient 2.5-gallon gas can with a 5-gallon one. After all, the riding mower had a bigger gas tank and it seemed logical to keep more gas on hand. Turns out, I bought the least friendly gas can ever invented, the aforementioned EPA mandated no-vent plastic gasoline can.

The manufacturer of this can could not have possibly done any user testing. The main problem lies in the trigger mechanism in the spout, which is designed to stay tightly closed, preventing fumes from escaping to the atmosphere. I realize I’ll never win a strongman competition, but dadgum, it is virtually impossible to press the trigger which allows the gasoline to flow down the spout.

Given the fact the spout is straight, with no bend,  means you have to hold the heavy can practically upside down to pour. This combination squeeze, strain, tilt just doesn’t work, even with my mower’s tank has a wide opening. I end up spilling way too much.

Smaller tank openings, like those on weed eaters or push mowers, are even more difficult. Now, after years of fighting this “environmentally friendly” trigger, I just unscrew the spout from the can and pour away into my tank. Does this allow more fumes into the air and defeat the purpose? I guess so. But I tried to go green and failed. At least I spill less and curse less. I know you’re thinking the ultimate solution would be to buy a new can. And you would probably be correct. However, it was expensive (for stinkin’ plastic!), and it irks me to consider buying another. Maybe in 2021.

heatmanThese days, however, the John Deere isn’t the only thing running out of gas at my house. With the summer heat, early morning running, a stressful day job, and throw in my evening writing sessions, my personal energy tank is pretty low right now.

I was hoping September would start giving us a break on the heat, but here in South Carolina, this week has been one of our hottest so far this summer. I believe I need a vacation trip to somewhere I can wear my favorite gray hoodie again or run with a beanie and gloves.

Since the vacation’s not going to happen, I’ll settle for a nap. I also may consider outsourcing my grass cutting. Does anyone know of a kid willing to mow my lawn for $12?

Thanks for reading,


PS – The writing streak is alive – 101 days. Continued to work on the second draft/revisions of Out of Tune.

2 Replies to “The Empty Gas Tank”

  1. JD Nelson says:

    Always liked having the wiffle ball field freshly mowed before we played….”over the wire” is a HR! “On the neighbors roof” was legendary!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *