For many suburban, middle-aged males, owning a riding mower is the ultimate reward for a lifetime of toil. A mechanized, potentially hazardous steed that both symbolizes a man’s mastery of the 5,000 or so square feet of nature surrounding his home and validates his worth as a provider. Such men tend to be meticulous in regards to maintenance, and treat their equipment with deserved respect.
Then you have the folks who look at one and see a slower version of a go-cart. People who will either vastly overestimate or underestimate the inherent abilities of a machine that is specifically designed to lacerate things while in motion. This type of individual may consider riding mowers to be a viable means of highway travel, the perfect accessory to criminal activity, or just another way to get to the closest liquor store. We’d recommend that they be prevented somehow from ever operating heavy equipment in the first place, but then we’d never get to read about…
When you know you’re too drunk to drive, but really need to get someplace else in a hurry, the best option is to either call a friend or catch a cab. Or you could just say “screw it” and jump on the first thing you see that moves, even if said thing moves slower than walking speed and is made up of mostly plastic, gasoline and machetes. But just because a riding mower isn’t a car doesn’t mean the authorities won’t take a dim view when you take one out for a spin on public roads after guzzling down your 30th Old Milwaukee (or Natural Light, depending on the locality.)
Just ask Tom Marrone of Murrysville, PA. Last September, after having just cut the grass at a neighbor’s home and having a few beers with some friends there, he decided it was time to go home. But he knew he was too intoxicated to get behind the wheel of his truck, so, “like an idiot, which I was, I took the zero.” As in zero-turn (radius) mower, which looks like this.
It didn’t take too long before Marrone was pulled over by a member of the local PD, who noticed an open container of Coors Light in the mower. Marrone, presumably a staunch Anheuser Busch loyalist, admitted to being drunk but vehemently denied any association with the incriminating silver bullet: “It was crushed. It must have already [been] in there because I don’t drink Coors Light cause I would not have been intoxicated if I was drinking Coors Light, I just want to say that.” His spirited defense/rant against Coors products did not prevent him from being charged accordingly.
Marrone is only one of an unfortunate many who have made this mistake. And don’t just assume that it’s only poor rednecks who find themselves in this type of situation. That would be forgetting to include the rich, famous rednecks.
George Jones, the late, hard-livin’ crooner of country music fame, had his own story about taking his John Deere for a boozy midnight joyride. Once, after Jones had been drunk for the better part of a week, his wife hid all the car keys in the hopes that it would make it physically impossible for him to acquire more hootch. But there was still one key she forgot to hide, as Jones relates in his autobiography,
“I can vaguely remember my anger at not being able to find keys to anything that moved and looking longingly out a window at a light that shone over our property. There, gleaming in the glow, was that 10-horsepower rotary engine under a seat; a key glistening in the ignition.”
It took an hour and a half to cover the eight miles to the nearest liquor store (he made it!), and luckily for him he wasn’t surrounded by flashing lights and perforated with taser probes on the way back home. But although this particular escapade may have been a small victory for aspiring backyard drunkards everywhere, it was merely a harbinger of future embarrassing arrests to come.
“But it’s a victimless crime! It’s not like anyone got hurt!” you may be slurring as you wipe the tobacco flecked spittle from the corner of your mouth and twist the next Keystone Ice into a commemorative Stone Cold Steve Austin foam koozie. Well now that you mention that, let’s talk about…
It’s a sad fact that children are are often injured in lawn mower accidents, almost invariably due to the actions of a negligent adult. But if reality shows starring faded celebrities have taught us anything, it’s that negligent adults can often be just as much a danger to themselves as to those around them. So it should come as no surprise that plenty of fully grown folks find themselves underneath the wheels of their Husqvarnas and Toros as well. Often enough to where at least one law practice seems to deal with it exclusively. It would be convenient to blame these incidents on booze, but that’s not always the case.
Even if we’ve mentioned this before, it bears repeating: a riding mower is not a car, an ATV or a soap box derby platform. Yet there are still some who assume that a mower can do things that it simply cannot. Even going downhill too fast can lead to trouble, as in the case of the golf course maintenance employee who “went down a steep embankment and fell off his seat, causing the mower to run him over with the blade still cutting.” We don’t want to get too graphic here, but suffice it to say, “pieces of flesh were spread over 10 yards and his hand was recovered from a nearby tree.”
Operator recklessness isn’t always to blame. Outside factors have been known to come into play, such as the time when a man from Mississippi was attacked by wasps, causing him to jump off his mower and into the path of whirling metallic death. But such instances are rare — much rarer than the catastrophes brought about purely by the foolhardy attitude of the man behind the wheel. Or sometimes the woman behind the wheel, apparently. According to Oklahoma State Troopers, a certain Ms. Connie Spence decided to take her mower out on the open road and into the town of Francis one evening, whereupon she hit a pothole, pitched forward onto the street and was subsequently (in a scenario you may be finding familiar) cubed like a ribeye.
And even though Gary Wersal of rural Madelia, MN didn’t make the mistake of believing his riding mower to be street-legal, while attempting to push the one he owned out of some mud (from the front, it seems) he made perhaps an even worse error in judgement: he forgot to turn it off. According to sources, “the throttle was wide open when the mower came loose, ran into Wersal and dragged him 15 feet before getting stuck again.”
Even when using a riding mower solely for its intended purpose, things can still go horribly awry. Inexperience can be just as deadly as drunkenness, stupidity or wasp attack, as this story from North Carolina poignantly illustrates (Note: we did not make up the names of any of the people or places involved):
According to deputies, 59-year-old Vernard Grunder was mowing a neighbor’s yard on the 200-block of Turkey Quarter Creek Rd when he lost control. The victim then drove under a free-standing deck, causing him to be pinned between his mower and the structure. “One of the boys who works for me was down at the landing and he noticed some feet sticking out from under the deck,” said neighbor Butch Morse. Morse said he saw Grunder at the store Tuesday when the victim bought the mower. “He was a little nervous. I told him to take it out in the yard and play with it for about an hour or so and he’d get used to it, but it didn’t work out that way.” Investigators have not released an exact cause of death.
These stories are tragic to be sure, but if we can prevent just one person from attaching a nitrous canister to a riding mower engine or stop them from participating in organized ice races then we feel that we’ve done society a service. However there is nothing tragic about the next group of people, unless you count the sorry state of the public education system. Feel free to openly mock…
The Criminal Masterminds
For the average burglar, discovering a riding mower during the course of business must present a tempting proposition indeed. But without a large, flatbed truck or some sort of trailer at the ready, there’s really no way to take advantage of the situation. Unless…
Most people would consider a riding mower to be about on par with a Segway or a Rascal in terms of getaway effectiveness. But sometimes desperation and greed (not to mention heavy drug use) overcome all the sensible apprehensions about escaping from the law in a vehicle that was never meant to leave grass nor travel above the speed of groundhog.
Such was the case with Richard Morey of Spokane County, WA. While riding shotgun with his girlfriend one morning, the two had an argument and Morey found himself stranded and alone after being summarily booted from the car. Instead of hoofing it to the nearest convenience store or asking to borrow someone’s phone, Morey proceeded to burglarize the first home he saw. After looting some cash and guns from the residence, he then fled the scene on the Craftsman mower that was left unsecured in the garage. It didn’t take long before an observant neighbor dialed 911 in regards to “a suspicious man carrying firearms while riding a lawn mower down the road.” Police had even less trouble catching up with their suspect you’d imagine, taking Morey into custody after his ride ran out of gas. During questioning, Morey stated he took the guns because he “was prohibited from having firearms and wanted one.” Prohibited because he was a wanted felon on unrelated charges, of course.
While Morey’s circumstances could theoretically be extenuated by way of a “heat of the moment” defense, there have been similar instances where actual planning seems to have been involved. Sort of. Admittedly, it’s hard to argue “premeditated malice aforethought” when the defendant’s gloriously blinding stupidity gives so much credence to an insanity defense.
After robbing a North Carolina convenience store with a stick (yes, a stick) and assaulting the female clerk (with said stick,) Ricky New (this guy) led officers on a low-speed/hastily concluded chase on his mower (a Craftsman again) that ended with Mr. New in jail and probably a voided warranty from Sears.
But probably the worst example we’ve found of this type of behavior happened in Hydro, OK in 2010. It seems a man named Edwin Fry had his beloved poodle, “Buddy Tough,” taken away by animal control after numerous complaints of Buddy rampaging unleashed throughout the neighborhood. And as unwilling as Fry was to tether Buddy’s adventurous spirit and indiscriminate humping, he was even more unwilling to pay the $100 fine to have him released from the pound. Fry instead decided on a daylight jailbreak, with the getaway vehicle being not a helicopter (or even a sensible SUV), but rather his mower. After taking a pair of bolt cutters to the outer fence, Fry was able to spring Buddy and raced home with the fugitive on his lap at a brisk 10mph.
Police initially kept their distance from the spectacle, as Fry had told them in the past that they “should leave his dog alone unless they wanted to face his shotgun.” But of course Fry was arrested eventually and Buddy sent back to the big house to serve the remainder of his term. It all turned out alright in the end though when… Actually no. Things actually ended up horribly. So if there’s a moral to all this, it probably has something to do with responsibility. And that gravel lawns require very little maintenance, are a wonderful green alternative and are highly underrated.
E. Reid Ross loves the ladies, and by “ladies” we mean “microwaveable burritos purchased in bulk.” Feel free to friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and check out his supple body of work over on Cracked.com.
E. Reid tackled a different threat entirely in So Your Daughter is Growing Up Hot.