Dawson gives mowers new life

Published 12:17 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Roger “Red” Dawson, of Victoria, has a special gift.

He has the ability to take a machine apart, the type of machines many would write off as broken or for the next dumpster trip, and put it back together better than ever.

His machine of choice? Lawnmowers.

Dawson sets up shop behind A&J produce along Victoria’s Main Street, where he keeps between seven to eight lawnmowers. He’s currently tinkering on a 38-inch cut riding mower with 12.5 horsepower. He used that same lawnmower to compete in a mower race during Autumn Days back in October.

Dawson has been able to increase the speed of a typical riding mower “from a slow crawl to 30 miles per hour.”

His secret?

“I took the pulleys and swapped them around,” Dawson said.

Dawson, 54, helps out at the A&J produce shop in between working on mowers. A stone’s throw away from the shop is the home where he grew up, and the workshop he used to keep his supplies.

While the properties have aged, Dawson has fresh memories of how his childhood home have spurred on his love and knack for mechanics.

He said one of his first lawn mower projects was taking a faulty lawnmower off of his friend’s hands.

Dawson said bolts on the lawn mower frame were loose. After repairing the bolts, fixing the interior and exterior of the mower and waxing the exterior, he ended up selling the lawnmower for $400.

Because Dawson had many of the supplies he needed on hand, he said he only spent about 11 cents in repairing the mower.

He said people in the community have enlisted his help in repairing their lawn mowers when needed, but what’s more extraordinary is that Dawson said he taught himself how to fix them.

But it’s not all work. Dawson’s handiwork has been on display at the Autumn Days event, the Christmas parades in Kenbridge and Victoria, and even sported a few custom riding mowers at the South Hill Christmas Parade.

Dawson’s goal moving forward is to clean the area, take mowers away that he won’t use, finish work on the 38-inch cut mower and perhaps get to work on a John Deere model a friend had given him.

He said persistent health problems prompts him to have dialysis treatments three times a week, and being on social security, he said he currently does not accept payment for his mowing work.

Dawson described working on the mowers as something he enjoys doing for the community, and enjoys doing for himself.

“(It’s) having fun and relaxation at the same time,” Dawson said about tinkering on the lawn mowers. “It kind of relaxes me.”