Our DR Field and Brush Mower was purchased early in Spring 2002, but it was a dream for many years before that. The DR Field and Brush Mower is only one of many products sold by Country Home Products, but it was the one that most caught our eye in the mailings they send out. The DR Mower was a piece of equipment people in the family wanted for various reasons. Mom thought it was the perfect piece of machinery to keep her field and woodland trails mowed. I thought the DR Mower was a good tool for keeping the scrub down in the field. For Mom the DR Mower could go places a larger piece of machinery could not, and a smaller mower would be unable to. For me it was the poor man’s replacement for a bush hog and tractor.
For the first several years after we moved in this house, when Dad still felt young and healthy, he was ambitious and mowed down the entire field with our push mower. This was a feat which might rightly be considered an act of madness, and a job which permanently traumatized our poor push mower. In the succeeding years, as Dad’s health declined, Teman struggled to keep the field mowed as far up as the blueberry bushes which we planted above Strawberry Hill, but when Teman took up a job he no longer had the time to mow. In this state the mowed area retreated to the edge of the garden. Dad’s mowing had set back the brush and tree saplings bent on taking over the field, but they had quickly recovered. With the passage of years the field beyond the blueberries ended up in an even worse condition than before Dad had been mowing. A few more years and the part Teman had maintained would follow. Walking through the field in the springtime I would dream of cleaning the area up. It was a wild dream, I thought, but it so irked me to see the wildness devouring the field. So I walked, and I dreamed of what I might do.
Then, early this year, the subject of purchasing a DR Brush and Field Mower came up. Say that again. We’re going to have a DR Mower, a machine capable of cleaning up the field?
Yes. In view of what we planned to use the DR Mower for, the aim was to get the best our money could buy. Along with the purchase of the 15 horsepower model, an extra heavy duty brush blade (capable of cutting through saplings 2 1/2″ thick) was bought. For the times when we wanted to keep large areas of grass under control, a 42″ mowing deck was also acquired.
In their advertising Home Country Products likes to say anyone can use the DR Mower. Okay, under perfect conditions, or with a smaller model, this is probably true. With the largest and most powerful model under the less-than-perfect conditions of normal life the idea that your mother or petite wife can use this wonderful machinery became one of the biggest screaming jokes ever told. Yes, the DR Mower is self-propelled. Starting the machine and hanging onto the handles and marching along behind it is a task even a child could do. But controlling the DR Monster in a straight line on sloping ground, rough ground, or repeated turning is a different story entirely. The DR Mower is self-propelled, but turning and controlling the 350 lb. monster is up to you.
These observations are not a criticism of the mower itself. On the contrary, the DR Mower was as good, if not slightly better, than one might have reasonably expected. But ever since I saw the advertisements proclaiming that anyone could use the DR I was skeptical, and when reality landed closer to my skepticism than their advertisement I was a bit incensed at what is nearly deceptive advertising. It is something like a dieting drug that works wonders . . . only read the fine print. Anyone can use the DR Mower under perfect conditions. The operator’s endurance may vary. Under adverse conditions the aged and petite may need to have strength like the Incredible Hulk. Or something like that. The DR Mower is good, but, as with any heavy duty walk-behind piece of equipment with an 15 horsepower engine, there can be a significant amount of physical work involved in its use.
I approached my first mowing attempt with a certain amount of trepidation. The DR Mower was big, and expensive. For my first experience I had decided to do something lame, and this distinction went to the back yard around the garden and apple trees. Simple area, and the machine was supposedly simple to use. The illogical part of me was a little concerned something might go bang and end my career as a brush mower in a display of fireworks and smoke. The logical part of me reasoned that it had to work perfectly fine on a harmless lawn, and this exercise would be an easy familiarization routine.
Nothing went bang, but the experience wasn’t easy, either. The difficulty was due to my unfamiliarity with the monstrous machine, and the propaganda of Home Country Products. They gave me “rope” by touting how anyone could use their product. Thus, in typical Rundy fashion, I hung myself–figuratively. I thought, “Well, I want this to be the fastest and most efficient mowing of all time. If anyone can use this mammoth, then surely I can use it going fast. After all, I’m a young fit male. Even if it’s not quite the pleasure ride they make out I shouldn’t have any trouble.” That little naive thought was my undoing.
My crucial mistake was using the wrong attachment. The mowing deck is so big it comes with an additional two wheels to help support and maneuver the DR Mower, and with a 42″ mowing spread looked a little intimidating for a first time go, so I thought to get myself warmed into the experience with the smaller brush attachment. The brush attachment, unlike the mowing deck, runs on metal skids. Skids go forward well enough, but when it comes time to turn they are many times worse than wheels. They catch on every snag or bump in the ground. Our ancient back lawn, never smoothed with a bulldozer and riddled with old drainage ditches and various water problems, is full of snags and various peculiar bumps. My lack of foresight, coupled with my high speed approach, made for a exciting experience.
Along with the difficulties inherent in using a skid mounted front attachment, I also was unaccustomed to the limited-slip differential. This cool sounding feature of the DR Mower, according to their words, “senses when one wheel is slipping and transfers more power to the wheel with more traction. This ensures that some power is always applied to each of the wheels, even when one is on a slippery surface . . . for maximum traction and control in uneven terrain, ditches, muddy conditions, and on moderate slopes. The Limited-Slip Differential also allows the wheels to turn at different speeds . . . for easy turning and precise maneuvering around obstacles, nursery stock, etc.” All this sounds great, and it may very well be tons better than everything else out there, but it doesn’t live up to the idea which blossomed in my mind. As far as working on slopes and around muddy ditches are concerned, this limited-slip differential often works against me. When stuck in some muddy place it is always the wheel I want to engage which isn’t, and on an incline it is always the uphill wheel which gets more of the power. In cases of extreme slope–like a particular odd roll in the back lawn among others–the higher wheel will momentarily lift off the ground, and at that instant all of the power is applied to the free spinning wheel. I then must lean hard against gravity and physically wrestle the machine back until the wheel is putting enough pressure on the ground to redistribute the power and I can once again move forward. Smart machines might not be a good idea, and at times like these I think that if each wheel just kept their power to themselves things might work a heck of a lot better.
Then there is the issue of “easy turning and precise maneuvering.” Easy maneuverability is questionable when using the brush attachment. For the reasons stated earlier I have found it necessary, or at least simpler, to pick up the front end for a smooth turn. With that caveat, I’ll admit the DR Mower with the wheel mounted mower attachment is more maneuverable than a tractor, and probably more maneuverable than riding lawn mowers. Precise turning, however, is another area where this limited-slip differential does strange things.
- Somehow, lifting up the front end of the DR Mower gives more power and speed to the wheels.
- When turning, this limited-slip thingy transfers most/all of the power to the inside wheel.
- All effects are amplified at higher speeds.
This all comes together in one wondrous equation so that, when lifting up the front end of the brush attachment to perform a turn I experience the most terrific whiplash. Amazing power is transferred to one wheel and the machine lunges forward, whipping around in a 90 degree turn. The centrifugal force is really something to experience. The unsuspecting operator can be nearly flung off the handlebars.
Clinging to the handlebars–this was my general state throughout the first mowing. I rumbled along until I came to a corner. Then swish! and I was racing to keep up with this wild and impetuous machine. I quickly learned the highest speed was not a good idea, and as I struggled to deal with arm strain and whiplash I wondered what big joker had come up with the picture of a lady or elderly man using this monster. Even reduced to using a moderate speed I still could not turn in a reasonable fashion. Our next door lady neighbor was out on her riding lawn mower, and from that position had an easy view of the spectacle that was me. After a few passes we both ended up near the property border and she stopped. The very short conversation went something like this:
“That’s some machine you’ve got there.”
“Yeah.” Pant, pant.
“I saw it really throwing you around.”
Sheepish grin. “Yeah.”
“You plan to mow the entire field with that thing?”
And so she went back to her mowing, and I went back to mine, trying to not imagine what she was thinking, and wondering how I could possibly survive an entire field’s worth of whiplash.
By the end of that mowing session I had given up on the fancy dancy limited-slip differential. I didn’t care if all drive vehicles used a similar technology. Fighting with the beast every time I went round a corner wore me out. Somewhere through the mowing operation I decided I’d rather physically turn the thing myself than fight the “precision turns” any longer. Using Rundy power to turn the 350 lb creature was wearing, but it was on wheels, and at least then it went at my speed and command, not on the limited-slip differential’s whim.
With that first mowing experience the idea of a nice friendly DR Mower died an untimely death. An effective, powerful machine–yes. A friendly little machine–no. Beneath the metal exterior it was a monster.
For all of this grim beginning to the relationship, things didn’t turn out so bad between me and the DR Mower in the end. The mower shattered all my dreams and illusions of some amazing piece of machinery, but once I learned to accept its quirks, and its simple existence as a very capable and powerful 15 HP walk-behind brush mower, it worked quite well for me. The brush attachment is very good for cutting down brush, and the lawn attachment does a better job turning corners. I still have trouble with the limited-slip differential. My skill and familiarity with the mower is such that now, when conditions are acceptable, I can go at full speed. Still, doing a corner at that speed is hard on me with the mower attachment–I really have to lean out to swing the machine around right–and with the brush attachment it is downright troublesome. The compromise I devised, which works most of the time, is to mow on the straight at whatever speed is manageable, then release the hand clutch when I’m nearly on the corner. The residual momentum and a bit of leaning effects the easiest and smoothest turn. I don’t have the wheels swapping power in what they imagine is the most efficient manner, but once round the corner I’m ready to go again. [Editor’s note: for a recent photo of Rundy turning the corner, click here.]
For all of my complaining about turning and the limited-slip differential, using the DR Mower was, on the whole, a positive experience, after I got over my initial shock at its quirks and difficult moments. When the salesman dropped the machine off at our house, he stressed that the Kawasaki engine was very powerful, and when I took the mower up to tackle the field I came to see its real strengths and abilities for myself. Strength, power, energy. Whatever you want to call it, this DR Mower has a bundle. I wouldn’t want anything much more powerful and be left to control it with my bare hands.
It’s hard for me to describe what this thing can do. The brush blade is 1/4″ thick steel and has some real heft. Spinning around at high speeds, it is like a whirlwind of hatchet blows. If you get out a ruler and see how thick 2 1/2 inches measures to the eye, you’ll get something of an idea of the chopping power this savage monster can unleash.
This power was visibly demonstrated for me in the field. It chewed through the stands of smaller scrub bushes like so much pulp. Well enough. It was a bit disconcerting to consider what might happen if I hit some hidden rock, but otherwise it rattled and bounced over the chewed stumps without much concern in the world. I simply had to keep up, hang on, and avoid being whacked by the scrub yet to be mowed. What really made me uneasy was when the DR Mower approached the large saplings in the 2 to 2 1/2″ range. Saplings of this girth stood several feet taller than me and could almost be considered young trees. The assault on these trees could verge on the frightening.
The blade on the DR brush attachment is housed under a protective metal shield. The front guard pushes down weaker mowing material, and guides the front of the brush mower up the side of stiffer, and larger saplings. As I mentioned before, the further the front of the mower is off the ground, the faster the machine goes. (Or so it seems). Under these circumstances I would dubiously approach the larger trees, wondering if the mower could actually hack through wood that thick. The mower had no such qualms. Against the sturdiest of saplings the mower clawed forward on its knobby tires and reared way back. Then–Ker-Wham! The DR Mower would give a mighty shudder, wood chips would fly, and the tree would topple. I soon developed a reflexive cringe every time the snarling machine would climb up the side of another tree like some voracious creature bent on devouring everything in its path. I eventually became so disconcerted by its lunging assault that I took the biggest saplings in slow, clutch on, clutch off attacks which at least–in the halting and considered approach–made me feel as if I was once again in control.
The machine was truly amazing. There were times when the DR Mower complained, but, over all, it hacked through everything I approached with startling gusto. Our field is somewhere around 3 acres and I finished the entire brush-infested area in around 8 hours (not in one stretch). It was a little staggering to witness swath after swath of brush fall with every pass. The thing was almost unstoppable. I wished I had some visible documentation, some means of showing future generations how this thing cleared out the field. A video of the operation could have passed for a County Home Products advertisement.
And Dreams Come True
The field is mowed now. The scrub will try to come back, especially in the next few years, but if I keep on top of it I should never have to deal with the same hair-raising adventure I went through the first time. I have the perhaps unreasonable hope that next year I will be able to use the mower attachment to do the field, thus cutting back the time required.
This fall I took the DR Mower with the brush attachment and did Mom’s trails as well. You can now walk up along the edge of our property and through the forest on a mowed trail. It’s very nice, especially when you’re walking up along the border and can look out through the trees at the far hills that open up beyond the end of the street.
The DR Brush and Field Mower has its quirks, and its difficult moments, but in the end it has done all we wanted it to do. It has done the job well and with great vigor. Two dreams, at least, which once seemed like distant prospects have now become a present reality. From my experience I would heartily recommend the DR Field and Brush Mower to those strong in body who are looking to clear overgrown vegetation and brush. My one warning is to those weak in body or nerve. Those advertisements don’t tell it all. The DR Mower is subject to the laws of physics like any other machine. Good as it is, a driver going through bogs or heavy brambles should expect the ensuing fight. It takes determination to steady the DR Mower on the course straight through the briar patch. I’ve had to physically haul the machine out of ditches it couldn’t climb from, and muddy spots that were too slippery. If you have kinder terrain to mow, or are up to the work (or know someone else who will do it for you), then the DR Mower will serve well.–Rundy Purdy.
If you enjoyed this essay, you can find more of Rundy’s writing at Letters from a Silverware Thief.