- Ada, Oklahoma

October 19, 2013

Wet summer, mowing, and NALM

Bobby Winters Guest Columnist

Ada —

The normal mowing paradigm for this part of Kansas is to first mow in March after that first bloom of henbit gets good and thick.  Depending upon the temperature and rain, one then usually begins a weekly cycle.  (Though it should be noted there is a significant minority who mow on an eight-day cycle so as to steal one mowing out of two months.)  

When June arrives, the temperatures go up and the rain goes down.  Typically, if you mow on the 4th of July you will mow either every two weeks or once a month after that.  The choice of two weeks versus four weeks depends upon your tolerance for dust.  Many times we use the fact that it has rained as an excuse for not mowing. During a normal summer, we in Kansas might mow right after a light rain because the dust has been settled.

During a normal summer, that is.

This summer — somewhere about the middle of July — we took a detour from the normal, comfortable routine.  The not mowing because it had rained excuse again went out the window.  This is not because we wanted to mow when the dust settled, but because we want to be able to mow at all.  Given the combination of warm temperatures, rain, and sunshine, the grass grew like something out of a low-budget science fiction movie. 

I, who have proudly used the “can’t mow because the grass is too wet” excuse because of a heavy dew, found myself mowing through puddles. Literally through puddles.

The reason I mowed through the puddles rather than just wait is that I didn’t want to get a letter from the fine, hard-working folks at the Office of Public Works.  Not that I don’t like to hear from them.  Their letters concerning my limb-piles are often a highlight of my week.  They help my dear wife in her program to get me to work a little more cardio into my routine.

No, you want to get out there and get that grass mowed.  It’s not just right; it’s the law.

So you mow through puddles if you have to, taking comfort from the fact that you could be gaining the knowledge from this to invent the outboard motor--if that hadn’t already been done. 

Among those of us to whom mowing is such an important thing, it is only natural to wonder about the reaction of NALM, the National Association of Lawn Mowers, to this unusual weather.  The mission statement that NALM lists on its Facebook page states the following: “The National Association of Lawn Mowers seeks to help spread the spiritual, health, and aesthetic benefits of mowing both for the individual and the community. NALM also recognizes the importance of mowing to the gender identity of many Men.” 

As I’ve mentioned before, this mission statement is loaded with controversy.  That aesthetic benefits phrase creates fury among some of the more spiritually-minded.  The sentence about recognizing the importance of mowing to the gender identity of many men has, unfortunately, discouraged some women from “liking” the NALM Facebook page.

These controversies have discouraged any revisiting of the mission statement in order to rework it.  As a consequence, the leadership at NALM is trying to get in through the back door what is too big to get in through the front.  Part of this is instituting  best-practices in the care of mowing machines.  For example, there is a real reason why you don’t want to mow when the grass is wet. Wet grass will stick to the underside of your mower and eventually obstruct the mowing process.  NALM teaches hosing the underneath of your mower off after mowing wet grass as best practice.  This doesn’t flow directly from the mission statement but leadership argues it falls within the penumbra. 

There are those within the leadership who believe that NALM will eventually be able to make money through endorsements of mowers with a teflon-coated underneath that facilitates wash up.  However, there are those who want to justify all of this through “climate change” which runs into resistance as the leadership of NALM has a significant right-wing component.  

This split is frustrating at times, but it is also somewhat heartening to see the diverse group of people who are brought together through mowing.

(Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, is Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University. He blogs at and We invite you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook. )