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Bill Rethlake

I have lots of stories.

I have stories about the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, the things I’ve done. I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to travel a great deal as a musician when I was younger, and have a world of interesting stories to share about it.

Most often, the funniest stories are the ones about ourselves, about the silly things we’ve done or the mistakes we’ve made. And we have to remember that the ability to laugh at ourselves makes life go much smoother.

This is one of those stories.

I mow yards, and I’ve done it since I was in high school. When I was younger, I hated it. Sweaty, dirty work for never enough money (you can hear a typically disgruntled 17 year old saying that, I’m sure).

But it’s always been a quick way to make a little pocket cash, and there’s nothing wrong with a little extra pocket cash.

During summers home from Ball State, I mowed yards. Home for a few months before going back out on the road to play somewhere, I mowed yards.

I’ve always mowed yards.

Through the years, I can’t say that I have learned to love mowing, but I have gotten used to it. It can be peaceful if you have reliable equipment and ample time to roam around town.

So, about three years ago, I received a very nice Dixon Zero-Turn Radius mower for my birthday. I came home from work and there it was parked in my driveway.

Wow!

It had a note taped to the seat that read “Happy Birthday, Bill.” It was signed “Dad.”

Nicely painted a happy blue with lots of cool stickers on it, there it sat, all shiny and new. I love to drive that thing. I got the “this is how you maintain your new mower” lesson from Dad because “you know, it’ll last longer if you take care of it.”

But driving a ZTR is different then driving other riding mowers. One learns quickly to use the cup holders (because having a tasty cold beverage while you’re mowing your own yard is one of the joys of summer) and keep your hands on both steering levers.

It was the first summer I’d received the ZTR as a birthday present. I was returning from mowing Mom and Dad’s lawn on one of the maiden voyages on my new mower. I was buzzing down First Street toward Michigan Avenue without a care in the world, enjoying the sights of our lovely little town and the nice cool breezes of early summer. And I saw Kenny Bass approaching on my left.

Kenny and I have known each other for many years and are friendly in public; it’s customary to wave or acknowledge folks like that as you pass them on the street. Especially here in Greensburg.

So, I let go of the right steering lever to wave at him and the mower started spinning out of control, careening out into the middle of the street.

He saw me losing my hat, clutching madly for the left lever and knocking over my beverage, wildly spinning in circles

I lost a perfectly good Pepsi and ran over my ball cap while he broke out into laughter – and drove on.

A few days later, I ran into him at a city meeting and he said, “Hey, Crash! Didja have a problem with that new mower the other day?” I just ducked my head and took my seat in back of the room in complete embarrassment.

The moral of this story is obvious: Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.

So, if you see a middle-aged ball cap wearing man headed down one of the streets in town on a bright blue ZTR, please be friendly.

You’re welcome to call me “Crash” if I’m in earshot, but please don’t wave.

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-651-0876 or email bill.rethlake@greensburgdailynews.com

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