Is the whipper-snipper the most reviled garden tool of all?

Freelance writer

Men – particularly older men – are notoriously reluctant to share their emotions or inner secrets. Thank goodness,otherwise we wouldn’t have the English literature canon from Jane Austen onwards. Or Hugh Grant’s movie career,come to that.

So I was stunned at a recent lunch when a group of former alpha males switched the conversation from sport (“Why are there no rugby tackles in the Winter Olympics?“) to their own main failing in life. Impotence? Absence during the sleepless early years of parenthood? Non-attendance in budgie smugglers at school swimming carnivals?

Even former alpha males fear the whipper-snipper.

Even former alpha males fear the whipper-snipper.Istock

Every male around the table confessed to the same fear about their manhood they thought they would take to their grave. An abiding hatred of the humble whipper-snipper. There might be something Freudian for this disdain of a mere gardening tool. But secateurs and garden shears have the same ability to accidentally circumcise the bearer. So why is the whipper-snipper so reviled?

“The string trimmer” wasinvented in Texas in the early 1970s by George Ballas who attached a piece of heavy-duty fishing line to a tin can bolted onto his “edger”,creating the “Weed Whacker”.

I’m reminded by the test Gideon gave his army in the Biblical chapter ofJudges,when the Lord told him to divide his warriors into two groups. “In one group,put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs,” the Lord said (according to the New Translation). “In the other group,put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” Great advice. Except anyone who has ever seen a dog drink knows it doesn’t lap water into its paws,it laps up water from the stream.

The same miscalculation is true of those few chosen by the Lord to successfully use a whipper-snipper. So much for infallibility:She/He picked the wrong group. I listen to them most days. They’re smug,self-righteous and dance around their gardens as if they’re in a tango with their machine.

They relish their ability to make uninterrupted noise (while my friends and I have to pause every 10 seconds to replenish that stupid whipper-snipper wire).

There should be another Nobel Prize,a combination of peace and science for the woman or man who invents an alternative garden tool to the one most hated by neighbours at the weekend. Apart from the leaf blower,of course. What’s wrong with a broom?

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Steve Meacham is a freelance writer.

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