The Lawnmower Incident – 30 Years Later

When I smell freshly cut grass or hear a lawnmower in the distance, I’m instantly transported back in time to the most traumatic experience of my life. It’s amazing how smell and human memory are tied together.

It was Presidents Day in 1988, exactly 30 years ago to the date of this post.

Sometimes I forget the incident happened. It was so long ago.

Other times, when I sit and really think about it, I wonder how much of an impact the lawnmower incident had on my development and psyche as a child. I recall therapy sessions not much longer after I was let out of the hospital.

I’ve never really written about the lawnmower incident before and I’m not sure why I write about it now. Perhaps the anniversary of that day has me thinking much about what happened.

In short, a friend and I had the holiday day off from school and we were sent to a neighborhood babysitter. A gardener who worked at our condo complex in Harbor City, California would let the neighborhood kids joyride on his big riding lawnmower (the kind that operates like a tank with two handles for steering and acceleration).

While out playing in a grassy area, my friend Matt and I spotted the gardener and of course he let us ride and play.

My friend Matt sat in the driver seat as I sat at the front of the lawnmower over the metal plate that concealed the blade. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I remember trying to jump off and I slipped and fell under the lawnmower.

I won’t go into the gory details. I’ll just say the blades took off my right big toe.

It was painful and traumatic. I went into shock. I recovered pretty quickly.

30 years later, I’ve managed to live life just fine without a toe. I played soccer in high school, ran a half marathon a few years ago and walk and run with no problem.

I keep the shoe I was wearing at the time. A Nike high top. This may seem kind of weird for some of you reading this, but I save it as a reminder of what happened. The shoe likely prevented my injury from getting far, far worse.

The shoe I was wearing during the lawmower incident. It likely prevented my injury from getting worse.

I was lucky when I compare my incident to other lawnmower accidents across the country.

Kids have lost feet.

Sometimes these accidents can be fatal.

This USA Today article says thousands of lawnmower accidents happen to children every year. About 83,000 lawnmower accidents were documented across all ages in 2011.

That’s amazing.

I hope if someone, especially parents, come across this post, they’ll be mindful of the dangers.

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