Brooke Allen began writing stories for his school newspaper in high school, for his literary magazine in college, and most recently for his children. He has a BA in mathematics and is a great believer in writing things down -- proofs and prose. He has been a teacher, speaker, computer programmer, and entrepreneur.
Mr. Allen lives in Glen Ridge, New Jersey with his wife, Eve, and two sons, Davis and Glen.
He would love to hear from you at email@example.com
Mowing the Lawn
I spent my teenage years in Somerset, New Jersey.
We had six acres of lawn.
Summers were mostly spent mowing that lawn.
Our rider mower did not have a steering wheel, but rather a C-shaped yoke you swung horizontally to aim the machine.
One day my dad decided to improve the process.
To the steering yoke he attached a rod that extended in front of the mower. To the rod he attached an eyehook. He connected a spring between the right side of the yoke and the left side of the seat. This would pull the yoke to the left, aiming the wheels to the right. In the middle of a part of the lawn he staked a cast-iron cylinder with a circumference a few inches less than the swath cut by the mower. He wound a rope clockwise around this cylinder. Then he connected the rope to the front of the rod.
The mower, under the pull of the spring, would want to bear right, but the rope pulled it to the left. As the rope unwound, the mower cut a large spiral. Without a passenger, the engine had enough power to mow in its highest gear; about twice its normal speed under load. When done, we moved the stake to another part of the lawn, reversed the spring, and let the mower wind itself up on the cylinder.
My dad and I would take turns lying on a lawn chair, reading a book, and "mowing" the lawn. When the machine would reach its maximal radius we would run up behind and jump on. Most times we could stop it before it hit something.
Eventually we mounted metal "whiskers" in the front that extended out on both sides. The feelers were connected to a switch that would ground the spark plug one circuit before it would smash into something. That way we did not need to pay much attention and we could read until the noise stopped.
Mowing circles in a rectangular lawn left a scalloped fringe that we would tidy up manually.
We soon decided to forget about mowing these areas and planted trees and bushes in the fringe.
We installed golf cups at the centers of each circle that we used for play and to secure the cylinder when mowing.
Our house became surrounded by an eight-hole golf course consisting of overlapping circular patches of lawn cut into a rather weird new growth forest.
One day my dad was returning from a business trip in a small plane. Since he was the only passenger, the pilot invited him to keep company in the cockpit. That was when he discovered something both surprising and satisfying.
Since our lawn was so distinctive and visible from a great altitude, it was being used as a landmark when charting a final approach to Princeton Airport.
Apply creativity to a problem and you might leave a mark on this earth.