Detroit mower group to hold inventor’s contest

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

Detroit — Stultifying heat doesn’t stop them. Nor does drought-like conditions.

No, the Detroit Mower Gang just keeps rolling.

The volunteer group, which trims parks and playgrounds every other Wednesday, has more promotions than a minor league baseball team.

Past ones include blindfolded mowing, mower polo, mower tug-of-war and a yearly mowing marathon.

“Stupid stuff like that,” said Tom Nardone, group leader or, as the gang affectionately calls him, head huckleberry.

The summer heat hasn’t slowed the promotional onslaught.

Next up is the Inventor’s Challenge.

It involves Nardone’s efforts to gently coax his minions to also pick up trash.

He said the minions aren’t paid so the best way to get them to do something is by tricking them. Like Tom Sawyer.

So Nardone is holding a contest to see who can invent the best device to pick up trash.

The gizmo will be judged on its ability to retrieve trash and the ease of operating it.

Why is ease important? Reread the earlier paragraph about mowers’ remuneration.

“Our motto could be, ‘Why work when you can let a machine do it,’ ” said Nardone.

When the mowers meet next on Wednesday, Nardone will distribute $50 gift cards so they can buy materials for their inventions.

Two weeks after, the contraptions will be unleashed on the world.

The locations of the two events haven’t been determined yet. See the Detroit Mower Gang Facebook page for upcoming details.

“Count me in,” said John Barrett, a group member from Detroit. “If everything fails, I still get a $50 gift card.”

Nardone got the idea because he’s constantly running over garbage that, by the time he spots it, is already in his mower.

So, instead of scooping up one soda can, he has to gingerly pick up five shards of aluminum.

Nardone, who plans to compete in the contest, is kicking around 10 half-ideas, he said.

One involves putting his three kids in a cage in front of the mower so they can scoop up garbage. Mrs. Nardone will be relieved to know he was just kidding.

As for the weather the past few weeks, Nardone said the heat has little impact on the group because it mows at night.

And the lack of rain actually makes the grass easier to cut because it’s so dry.

Rain is the enemy of these mowing marauders, said Nardone. Wet grass clogs up the machines.

We can’t end the story without telling about one other promotion.

One year, near Halloween, Nardone thought it would be a hoot to buy severed heads and feet and hide them in tall grass before the gang commenced its cutting.

The mowers never noticed the body parts, just blithely trampling right over them.

The gang still doesn’t know about Nardone’s stunt. Which means he may do it again on a future Halloween.

(313) 223-4186

Twitter: @francisXdonnell