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Lawn Mowing Goes Retro

It wasn't so long ago, when someone was mowing the lawn with an old-style push mower, that you'd hear comments like, "I didn't know they still MADE those things." So much had gasoline and electric power mowers and tractor-sized riding models overwhelmed suburban America that a push, manual, or "reel mower, as it's called, seemed like an ancient artifact, like car windows that you crank by hand.

But muscle-powered lawn mowers are making a big comeback. Across the United States, an estimated 350,000 reel mowers are sold each year. That's seven times the number sold in the 1980s, when power was king.

Why the return to the quieter, cheaper, and safer push mowers? For those very reasons. They're quieter, cheaper, and safer!

And also because more people and more towns have had it with ear-splitting noise and smelly and polluting fumes.

There's the fitness benefit, too, although modern, lightweight push mowers are no harder to maneuver through normal lengths of grass than are the heavier power models. And there's an aesthetic look to a manually cut lawn, since a push mower gently chops each blade of grass, rather than ripping the top off it. You don't need a mechanic to fix a reel mower, either. A few drops of oil and a file to sharpen the five blades usually suffice.

Nor do you need brute strength and infinite patience to start a push mower. You just take one step forward. And you can cut your lawn at the crack of dawn and not wake a soul.

Yup. People happily pushing their lawn mowers are the vanguard of "Green America." Just you wait. It won't be long before they'll all be out of their cars and riding bicycles.

Well, maybe not right away.