Purchasing a riding lawn mower had never been high on my bucket list. Up to a certain point I had owned and lived on nothing but one-third acre lots during my adult life, making mowing easily accomplished with a push mower.
Yet, as we should all know, the only constants in life are death, taxes, and change. Having a work relocation force a change in domicile back in 2011, it also forced a change in my approach to yard care.
It all started in this old farm house, a place we rented while trying to sell our old house. Not wanting to dive into gory and irrelevant details, let’s just say the lawn care I had there evaporated when the bank foreclosed the property from the developer who owned it. Yes, we were ultimately renting directly from the bank. After my wife gave the bank officer an attitude adjustment in regard to his perception of rental dwellers, it went rather well.
But this left me with about 1.5 acres of open property to keep mowed. My push mower was mostly up to the task but after two tick bites I wasn’t. So I went mower shopping.
I ultimately decided to purchase a new Cub Cadet from a little shop in the town of Boonville. Boonville’s claim to fame is it having the world’s largest assemblage of Mitchell automobiles.
The owner of the shop was a delightfully stoic and blunt spoken older gentleman whose vocabulary had but one adjective – the word “damn”. When he and I visited, he was succinct and to the point. “If you are mowing that much, you are right in wanting a two-cylinder engine. Those singles are too damn loud. And this Kawasaki engine is a damn fine engine; yeah, you could get a Briggs & Stratton, but they aren’t worth a damn.”
Sold! He even delivered it.
While Cub Cadet was founded by International Harvester in 1960, it has been a subsidiary of the MTD conglomeration since 1981. Regardless, this Cub Cadet fit my criteria better than did many other mowers – I wanted a cut width in the 42″ range so I could load it on the pickup, I wanted a twin-cylinder, I did not want a Briggs & Stratton engine, and I wanted those exotic little things called grease zerks on the suspension. This had them all and for a price I could live with.
Even better, this two-cylinder is an 18 horsepower Kawasaki unit and it’s a real peach. In researching for this, my suspicion about the engine’s place of manufacture was confirmed.
This engine, along with many other Kawasaki general purpose engines, was built in Maryville, Missouri. I have driven by the plant countless times since 2001.
Kawasaki was, in their words, the first foreign vehicle manufacturer to build a plant in the United States, doing so in Lincoln, Nebraska. That factory was built in 1974 with the Maryville plant opening in 1989. The distance between these two plants is only about 120 miles.
My Cub Cadet was a fabulous partner in crime for all the mowing I did over the next year until we finally found a house to buy. It was after buying our house the abilities and idiosyncrasies of this Cub finally emerged from it’s former mowing-only cocoon.
Let me digress for a moment – be very careful if buying a foreclosure as we did. The place had a lot of deferred maintenance and perhaps some shame should fall on me for not being so diligent as to discover these little nuggets of fun.
As my lot size was initially just under 0.9 acres, I knew I’d still need my riding mower. The subsequent purchase of the undeveloped and adjacent 1.2 acres only reinforced the need.
One of the bigger house issues early on was a leak in the basement. Basements can be vulnerable to leaks (although in my three prior houses, none did) but when water infiltrates itself through the breaker box, that adds a new dimension of fun and whimsy.
Never able to definitively pinpoint the outside water source (which did not appear to be storm water runoff), it was obviously working its way through an elbow that wasn’t designed to be used below ground. In lieu of doing all manner of exotic corrections, I installed a window well in addition to adding a taller berm next to the house.
The window well was installed in the spring, when the soil was moist; in other words, it was between storms. Not wanting my soil to get washed away, and to ease in backfilling, I kept it in my yard cart, pulled with the Cub and stored in the tool shed. This is a large yard cart and it was quite full. The mower did great with it – just rev it up and go.
My initial concerns about this mower having a hydrostatic transmission have mostly proven to be unfounded. Sure the Cub gripes a bit if I try going at too high a velocity if loaded down, but that’s no big deal. What has been a big deal was an incident about 18 months ago.
I’ve pulled a lot of stuff with this mower, particularly trees and the brush I’ve been continually clearing. This also means there’s a lot of sticks on the ground at times. One day in mid-2018 I was navigating a mild wash-out area when I started to smell something stinking and burning, accompanied by a weird noise. A stick had poked up and lacerated the hydrostatic drive belt, making a mess of things. This little incident necessitated replacement of the drive belt, a feat that required loosening the engine so mounting points could be manipulated. It took a long time.
Another annoyance has been its appetite for belts on the mower deck. However, that is due to collateral damage, not any manufacturing defect. The lot containing my house was covered with all manner of invasive vegetative species when we moved in and I’ve spent many hours crawling around with a chainsaw and Tordon eradicating these trees and plants. A minor goof by me can mean a tiny stump that will later catch on the mower deck. Enough instances of this, along with a few other occluded obstacles such as large tree roots, has rendered it to be tweaked numerous times. It’s got a tweak at this moment. A few minutes with my block-and-tackle should help remedy that again.
Mechanically the Cub has been flawless. It always starts quickly and its been up to every task thrown at it, often on terrain it wasn’t meant to be used on. I have not pampered it and, like a faithful dog, it’s always ready for more.
When I purchased my mower, my hope was to have a machine good for no less than twenty years. I suspect it’ll be good for much longer than that, particularly since it’s always parked inside. If we had a category for “Tool Of A Lifetime” this Cub Cadet would definitely qualify. It’s been a great purchase and a great mower.