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Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Mowers!


This is the story of a bunch of grass-roots racers. REALLY grass-roots.

Like other people, Americans race horses and dogs and, occasionally, odd things like frogs and cardboard paddle boats. But mostly we race machines with powerful engines that go fast and make a lot of noise.

Like lawn mowers. That's right: lawn mowers.

Not "push"-type mowers, but big riding mowers, with the cutting blades removed for obvious reasons.

The 600 members of the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association organize races at fairgrounds and arenas, and on all kinds of fields. They line the courses with bales of hay, and a fall from a racing mower is called a "hay bath."

Now, the typical riding mower slowly meanders over a lawn. Not THESE babies! They're as souped-up as stock cars. Even the slowest class reaches twenty kilometers per hour. The fastest tops one hundred. Tinkering with the engines to make the mowers go that fast is a big part of the fun.

But there's also the adrenaline rush of the race -- the noise, the gasoline fumes, the choking dust and flying clods of dirt. The mower's seat is close to the ground, out in the open. The helmeted driver straddles the engine, absorbing every bounce and bump and slip and slide, while grinning and laughing all the way. Collisions happen, but there has never been a reported serious injury. Top prize is a trophy; nobody wins a penny in cash.

That's OK. These mower men and women say they're glad to be out having good, dirty fun on their racing mowers instead of stuck at home doing chores -- like cutting the grass!

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