Deere John: It’s Been A Good Ride
Lawn Behemoths Are Going Out to Pasture
By Joel Garreau
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 19, 2008; C01
The riding lawn mower has long been a barometer of the American dream, been a symbol of having arrived in the suburban middle class. It says, “I have so much lawn to mow, I need to sit down.”
It says, I’ve made it, I’ve escaped that funky old rowhouse neighborhood with the asbestos siding and yards like dirt-scabs. My land, my spread, not enough to plow, but way too much to mow the old-fashioned way. It says, I’m Jefferson’s dream of the yeoman farmer. It says, I’m rich enough to not only raise a worthless crop, but to pay money for the privilege. It says, I’m a boy with a boy’s rightful toys; a real American man.
Or that’s what it said back when city dwellers would gather around the riding mowers at the old Hechinger north of Capitol Hill, and dream the dream.
Now it’s saying something else. It may be a measure of the forces lined up against us. The riding mower seems to be on the wrong end of every headline. If economic news – from gas prices to shrinking nest eggs – is like the magnifying glass focused by an 8-year-old to fry a bug with sunlight, riding mowers are the bug.
The news: The riding mower industry “is deeply troubled by the decline in housing starts,” says Kris Kiser, spokesman for the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute in Alexandria. “New home construction is a good barometer for us. But you add foreclosures, decline in housing starts and the decline in housing sales, and you have the trifecta.”