The owner’s manual and all the advertising clearly said the bagging attachment for my riding mower was perfect for picking up leaves. And I believed it.

After all, I love gadgets as much as the next guy. Which means I will believe just about anything you tell me about them.

Truth is, I’ve had the mower for several years, but until this fall had never hooked up the bagging attachment. I guess that’s because I grew up in the old broom rake school. As far back as I can remember, that was the only way to clean up the fall deposit of leaves.

Of course, I’d never owned a mower with a bagging attachment either, much less one that promised to suck up leaves. The thought of gathering up the fall harvest without getting a severe case of tendentious was a joy to consider.

Gleefully, I hauled out all the tubes and framework for the bagger and fitted it carefully onto the back of the mower. I checked the oil, filled the gas tank and fired up the engine. As I eased into the padded seat I almost felt like Snoopy going out to meet the dreaded Red Baron.

The plan was to circle the yard until the bag was full, then empty the leaves from the bag into a trash bag fitted into one of my garbage cans. When each bag was full, I’d tie it, remove it and replace it with a new one. I had bought a box of 32 bags to do the job.

I had gone no more than 50 feet when I knew the plan had a flaw in it. The bag was already full. Quickly, I emptied it into the trash can and discovered that — hoo boy — it too was full. One bag for every 50 feet of gain? I did the math and realized I would flat run out of bags after about three passes around the yard. Further calculations told me my biggest investment this fall would be in leaf bags. Lots of leaf bags.

Resigned, I hopped back on the mower, revved up the engine and charged once again after the Red Baron. Three minutes later I discovered another flaw.

My guess is whoever determined my mower would pick up leaves did so in a small yard with maybe one tree, a small tree that dusted the lawn lightly with leaves. My yard is huge and my trees are gigantic things that load the land below with leaves up to a foot deep.

My mower was not designed to pick up leaves a foot deep. The minute I charged into the leaves the bagger plugged up. The blade continued to turn, of course, but instead of blowing the leaves through the tube and into the bag, it now blew them straight down and out the side of the mower deck. Instantly I found myself sitting in the middle of a dust storm of chopped up leaves.

Immediately, I shut down the mower and cleared the bagger. Then, slower this time, I re-entered the battle zone. I moved forward by inches. After no more than six inches the bagger was full, and it occurred to me that I might run out of bags before I got around the yard even once.

About a half-hour later I had progressed only a few feet, had emptied the bagger four times, cleared the plugged tubing five times and was festooned with dust and leaves. I was beginning to cough and wheeze and wondered if I shouldn’t go inside and take another look at the owner’s manual for the mower, especially the part about picking up leaves.

After a few more equally disastrous attempts, I realized snow would fly before I got the leaves picked up. Sadly, I returned the mower to the shed, scornfully tossed the bagger equipment into a corner and dragged out my trusty broom rake.

As I headed for the yard loaded with leaves, I made a vow to myself that I may have lost the battle, but the war was far from over.

“I’ll be back,” I muttered, “Curse you, Red Baron!”





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