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The physics of small garden tractors

Brent Murphree John Deere X350.jpg
Standing in front of a tractor rolling downhill is not always the best option.
Riding mowers are much heavier than most humans.

For about a year now, our John Deere riding mower has been taking up space in the garage between mowings. I've tripped over it in the dark and it blocks access to the back door of the garage. 

Last weekend, after many building delays, our shed was finally ready for mower residency.  

We have a nice ramp that allows us to drive the mower into the small barn, which sits about a foot higher than ground level. It turns out that we have more fall in the ground at the end of the ramp than we had allowed for. 

But the good ol' engine of the mower easily muscled it backwards up over several inches at the front of the ramp. It moved up the ramp with little effort and the driver, not me, stopped it just inside the doors of the barn to assess how far we needed to move it into the barn. 

I was standing in front of the mower with my hands pushing backward in case it decided to roll down the ramp. Everything seemed ready to move into its designated parking spot. 

The driver hit the pedal. In order to make sure the mower would clear the threshold he gunned it slightly. 

Let me explain that while a John Deere X350 Garden Tractor is not a big tractor, it does have a 21.5-hp (16.0-kW) iTorque Power System. It weighs many times more than me and has one pedal for forward and one pedal for reverse. 

I'm not sure of the reason for the confusion, but the driver (who will understandably remain anonymous) hit the forward pedal instead of reverse. 

I have experienced the feeling of utter powerlessness before. That understanding one can only ride the happening to the end because no matter what takes place, the individual cannot do anything to alter the course of events in progress. That feeling was instantaneous.  

I pushed against the mower knowing it would win, but hoped that the momentum would push me back and keep me from going under the small tractor. When we hit the end of the ramp, I could not move backwards any faster, so I pushed hard and leapt away. 

Time really did stand still. I remember gaining good altitude as I slowly flailed left and out of the way of the mower. Then I remember thinking, "How exactly should I land." As if I had any control over that. 

I ended up hitting the ground on my knees (yes, the one I had surgery on in April) and my right arm. I rolled onto my back and lay there assessing any potential problems. 

Then we laughed, and laughed, and laughed. After a few days, after the aches dissipated from this aging body, I feel fine. Now let's see if I can put my other superpowers to use. 

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