Tag Archives: lawn

Kenchan

I don’t even know if that’s how it’s spelled.

I once alluded to the fact that I had the worst lawn mowing job in the history of the world.  A little backstory.

If you live in Florida, chances are, at some point in your career development, you work as a lawn guy (or girl).  As an adult, my yard gets mowed from early March until late November, with an occasional touch up before Christmas and again in February.

During the rainy season it’s way worse.  I could mow my yard on Sunday, and, by Thursday, you could lose a 3 year old out there.

So I’m working at the Christian bookstore 4 days a week, and my dad is like “hey, you should put in an application over at Coscia & Sons mowing for the other days”

Being a good son, I did exactly what my dad suggested.  Much to my chagrin, I was hired. And I was immediately placed on a team with Kenchan.

I have no idea whatsoever how Kenchan spelled his name.  I do know that I’ve got it nailed phonetically.

Kenchan was a little Vietnamese man.  Based solely on my memory, he was about 4′ 11″ and he spoke 2-3 languages, none of them well and none of them English.

He called me “Trason” which, looking back, may have been the coolest nickname I’ve ever had* – only it was less “treySON” a la the Karate Kid type nickname, and more “TRAHson” like he was mis-pronouncing “trash”

*There was a period of time, in the 10th grade, where I tried to get people to start calling me “Silk” as a nickname, because I was so smooth.  It didn’t stick, mostly because I was a 6’3″ bundle of disjointed elbows and knees who always looked like he was in a bull fight with gravity.  But it didn’t stop me from trying.

Kenchan had the strongest work ethic I’ve ever encountered in an individual.  Dude literally never stopped.  He would be in the shop by 6 in the morning, have all the mower blades sharpened, the weedeaters loaded with string, gas tanks full, all while I was still trying to get the sleep out of my eyes.

Coscia and Sons mowing seemed to have “teams” that mowed, and they descended in an order based on a number of criteria, skill, professionalism, quality of work, and proximity to the owner’s sons being chief among them.  Kenchan being from Ho Chi Minh and his lack of a native tongue placed us as roughly the 8th team out of 6 spots.  Meanwhile, my best friend Tony is on crew number 2, with son number 2.  They frequently would drive by a job site, say something like “looks good to me” and proceed to the movies.  Or they’d park in the shade on a 50 acre lot and take naps.  They were hard to pin down.

One of the things about working with Kenchan was that we only took lunch breaks, or any breaks, at one particular client, on one particular day.  It was an industrial park in Avon Park.  Normally, I learned, if you didn’t have your lunch with you on the mower, Kenchan wouldn’t stop.  All day.  From daylight until dark, 12+ hours in the July Florida heat, we would be mowing or pushing or whacking.  After my first day, I was certain I was being hazed.

So we’re in Avon Park, and, much to my joy, Kenchan waves me down and through a series of signs and signals and noises, indicates he wants to stop and eat lunch.  I almost mowed over his foot in shock.

So I get out my ice chest and sandwiches and Mountain Dew, and we sit down next to this retention pond looking thing.  And I notice Kenchan sits on his water cooler, but doesn’t seem to have any food.  And he’s wrapping what looks like fishing line around his hand.

So help me, this crazy little guy catches a pleco, one of those sucker fish from an aquarium, right out of that pond in Avon Park on a line wrapped around his hand.  And, I can see this as plain as if it were this morning, he pulls out his knife, cuts on that sucker for a minute, and EATS IT!?!?!?!?!?

Ya’ll, I have seen some things in my life.  Crazy things.  But that little Vietnamese dude eating plecos out of a retention pond, RAW, in the 104 degree Florida heat may always hold the top spot.

He repeated the process 6-8 times, got up, fired up his mower, and went back to cutting grass.

I was dumbfounded.  I mean – I mowed the rest of the afternoon in a kind of daze.  What had just happened?  Had that really just happened?  Is Kenchan going to die of food poisoning out here riding his Toro around Avon Park?

It was dusky when we loaded up the van to head home that evening.  Mowers secured on the trailer, tired and covered in dirt and dust and grass.

“Trason – you . . . (he makes a motion like steering a car)”

“Sure Kenchan, I’ll drive”

It was an hour back to the shop.  I talked to Kenchan like I would anyone else.  I had no clue if he understood me or not.

“Kenchan . . . man, I just can not believe you ate those fish for lunch.  Like, I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.  I mean, they were still wriggling when you swallowed them, and you ate a bunch of them, and you went right back to work . . . how is that even possible?”

A couple of moments of silence went by.  He looked at me, grinned his snaggle toothed smile from ear to ear . . . and in perfect English, he said:

“Taste like chicken, that how!”

Lawnmower stories . . .

My sister, who is awesome, said I should tell you guys about the time I set the lawnmower on fire.

That right there, folks, is called a tease.  Because what ensues are my greatest lawnmowing stories.  Enjoy.


Once, my dad bought a riding lawnmower,  It was a John Deere.  I was probably 14 or so.Kumquat tree

My mom had a kumquat tree that grew in the field between our house and the Swart’s.  That field has seen a lot of things over the years.

The tree was adult height, maybe 6 feet tall or so.  She loved it.  It was loaded in fruit.

Anyway – I’m mowing along, minding my own business, when the kumquat tree is gone.  Leaves and kumquats littered the field.  Also the mower made a loud noise.


The same thing happened to our gardenia bushes.  Yes.  Bushes, plural.  I mowed down three of them, each the size of a 5th grader, planted along the back of the house.  Each time I’d run over one, I was like “crap, now what do I do” and before I could solve the problem, I hit another one.  This chain was broken, ironically, by a chain link fence I ran into.  I hooked (ironically) a chain to the lawnmower and my truck to extract it.


Also, I did the same thing to our lamp post.  And maybe a dogwood tree.


I once forgot to change the oil, or check the oil, in the mower for, you know, a couple of years.  It caught on fire.  Pretty aggressively. While I was turning around in the cul-de-sac.  My mom was screaming at me, yelling for me to stop.  I waved back.  I thought she was just happy I was mowing the yard. Until I got really hot.  Then I stopped.  My shirt had caught on fire from the flames leaping off the engine.  Yes.


That also happened to the John Deere.  The fire catching part, not the part about my shirt or my mom.  Flames were creeping out of the little shifter thing where you raised and lowered the blade.  I shut it off and put the fire out with a water hose.  Then I finished mowing.  Crisis averted.


Once, I went through a phase of mowing in different patterns.  My history teacher at school had told me that, by mowing in different patterns, the grass would grow better.  So I tried all different sorts of patterns – diagonals, and straights and boxes and circles, and some weird herringbone thing.  It started raining during that one, so I left and went home.  The old lady from church had a perfect swastika in her yard.  It was unfortunate.


As a 30 year old adult, I pressed the clutch instead of the brake and dropped the front two tires into our pond.  Only the mowing deck, catching on a root, kept me from sinking it.


While in high school, I worked for a very large mowing company.  I was partnered up with a guy named Kenchan, who was nuts, but that’s a different story entirely.  Anyhow, one day, I hit the water main with a Toro and knocked out the water to the Pepperidge farms bakery in Lakeland.  I also flooded their parking lot.  The bad part was I really had to pee, but couldn’t, because they didn’t have any water.  I grabbed a complementary bag of goldfish, left and went to the 7-11 and then went home.  300 workers in hair nets and white aprons stood around in the parking lot wondering what had happened.


I think that’s everything.  The chamber is empty.  I now pay a guy to mow my yard.  It’s better for everyone.