I have told this story many times over the years, but never actually tried to write it down.
A long time ago, before portable compute devices with more horsepower than anyone ever needed were commonplace, and long before the first Bluetooth speakers, there was a man with a dream. Or maybe it was a woman, I suppose you really need to figure out what I was wearing the day I came up with this idea, and what you think of gender identity issues, and whatever, it was me, okay? I had the dream. It wasn’t a grand dream, it will never change the world, but it was fun, and it was mine!
The dream was a riding lawnmower with a kick ass stereo system, that had wireless, and streamed MP3s from my home file server, and operated completely hands free.
The hands free part was either a design goal, or just me admitting that I had no desire to get X working on a portable LCD screen, much less pay for such a beast in 2003, back when computer hardware was far less disposable, and rarely cheap. At this point, I think I still had 486s in service at home, and at $dayJob. In fact I know I did, the original billmax.wedroppackets.net was an AMD 486 piece of shit from hell.
The lawn mower was, and is to this day, a Toro Z4200 Timecutter. A zero turn radius, 42 inch deck, gas guzzling monster, that cuts through my 1 acre property in less than an hour……. I call her Rachel.
So, with the design goals in mind, prepare to be amazed with my oh so awesome solution. The stereo itself was a pair of cheap speakers, requisitioned from my first dual cassette tape deck, circa 1989. The compute workhorse was a Soekris Engineering Net4501, with a MiniPCI 802.11b wireless card, and a 3.3v PCI sound card.
For those that remember such hell, the Soekris boards were notorious for not actually providing 3.3v on their single PCI slot, they were also notoriously interupt craaaazy. Finding a sound card that actually didn’t wig out at being under-powered…. and still worked under OpenBSD, took some doing. Yes folks, I was over Linux even back in those days. Linux sucks. I wish I could even remember the make and model, because I went through hell, as did my wallet to find such a beast. Trust me, it exists, it was not easy to find.
A little electrical glue provided the rest, a dc-to-dc step down converter got me the power I needed from the mower battery. My childhood as the son of a journeymen electrician has been good for a few things in my life. Operation was simple, a simple quick release wire snap provided the connectivity to the battery, it was technically possible to run the stereo without the mower running, but why would I ever do that? The modus operandi was to connect the power, go inside, grab a beer, come out, fire up Rachel.
Meanwhile, OpenBSD booted, hopped on the household wireless, mounted $fileServer0:/home/nuintari/media/tunes via NFS, read only, of course, and grabbed a playlist. From there it was just mpg123 (or was it mpg321? I forget). Tunes soon started flying out the cheap cassette deck speakers, and yours truly would proceed to enjoy a relaxing hour or so of yard work and beer.
Rock and Roll!
Pre, The Incident
My wife is afraid of birds, royally terrified of birds. Have you ever seen how I react to spiders? Imagine that, but with birds, it is that level of terror. Actually it isn’t, my wife isn’t the bloomin’ coward I am in the face of her fears. But, she is not a fan of them to say the least.
We live in the country, or….. maybe right on the edge of the country. As country as Northwest Ohio ever gets is the point. Country enough that the neighbors raise chickens. Chickens that are mostly free to wander, and return to the hen house at the end of the day. How they weren’t all eaten by foxes, I will never know. But, they did seem to have a thing for my lilac bushes. They would wander across the street, and nest in my lilacs. My wife hated this, she’d be out in the yard, and a chicken would appear out of nowhere, and my young, young, gorgeous lady would lose her shit and run inside. I would of course, be dispatched, usually with some kind of makeshift polearm, to shoo them away.
Occasionally, I would notice them while mowing the lawn. Rachel has some oomph behind her, and if you kill the blades, and pull the deck all the way up, you can move at a solid 12+ MPH….. with the wind. Fast enough to chase chickens. Not fast enough to catch them, not that I ever wanted to, but fast enough, and loud enough, to chase them away. Also, good for a solid laugh.
We were the new couple in the neighborhood, and the farm across the street was our only real neighbor. Turns out, they had a daughter graduating high school. We were invited to the party, which we wholeheartedly accepted on the assumption that there was likely to be beer. And, I guess we should get to know the neighbors or something.
Over the course of a fine afternoon, the father approached me, and informed me that, “I see you chasing my chickens, they give you any trouble, just shoot em, they’re good eating!”
I should point out that I live NORTH of US-6….. which anyone from Ohio will recognize as the actual Mason Dixon line of demarcation between civilization and Hicksville, USA. Someone will hate this bit, but I don’t care. South of Six Hicks are a thing, and we were a solid 40 miles North of their territory, spooky.
I should note that this phenomenon exists only in Ohio. Once you reach Kentucky, the hick meter resets back to a sane level, people are way nicer, and supremely less racist. South Ohio sucks ass.
Now, I have zero interest in shooting a chicken. For starters, I own a few guns, none of them suitable for avians. Can you imagine actually hitting a chicken with a 12 gauge? Or a 7.62 SKS? It’d be feathers and a fine mist. But, even assuming I killed it, and left it intact, who wants to clean it? My old man took me hunting a few times, cleaning the carcass is the nasty part I never want to experience again.
This part is actually pretty short, the lead up is what makes the story funny.
The stage is set, Nuintari, the man with a dream, is riding a hacked up stereo laden lawn mower, listening to classic thunder, and of course, I have a beer , and I am wearing daisy duke shorts, and a bikini top. It is either truly awesome, or truly awful to live next door to me, even if the houses are fairly far apart.
A chicken waddles over the street, through my side yard, and right into my lilac bush.
It should be noted that at this time in my life, I had come into possession of two key items relevant to this story. A Sig Sauer, P229 9mm handgun, and a pile of 9mm blanks. Remember, I don’t actually want to kill the chicken, I just wanna fuck with it. Also, I am drinking.
I know, I know, I know, I shouldn’t mix beer and guns….. It hasn’t happened since…… that I can recall.
So, naturally, inside I go, grab the gun, a fresh beer (I know, I know), and load the weapon with blanks. Upon returning to Rachel, the stereo is now beginning to play Wagner’s Ride of The Valkyries. It was so on. Deck up, blades off, LETS GET THOSE CHICKENS!
The next few minutes is basically me, in a Bikini top, daisy duke shorts, driving a zero turn radius mower, with a beer in one hand, a blanks loaded 9mm handgun in the other, rocking out to classical German musical great Wagner, chasing a chicken around my yard, occasionally taking potshots at it with the blanks…… and of course, laughing like an idiot the entire time.
At one point, I caught a look from the farmer across the street, who was basically, as the kids say, “losing his shit.”
The stereo blew up. A victim of a replacement battery, and operator failure to observe reversed poles….. oops. It has since been replaced with a smart phone, a bluetooth headset, and Pandora. Not as sexy, but it works. The neighbor moved away, the chickens are all gone, the farm is largely empty these days, some days, I can chase a Killdeer around a bit, but it just isn’t the same. Killdeer fight back.