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the blades out of his mower and poured more than $5,000 into the machine. The only original equipment on his mower is the engine block and the head. “As you can see,” he told us, “I’ve put on a box tubing frame, which runs all the way back, and rack-and-pinion steering. The hood and the dash, they’re aluminum. I put a snowmobile clutch on and disc brakes?’ Born on a whim at the 1993 Bluebonnet Festival in La Vernia, Texas, lawn mower drag racing has evolved from a side attraction into a main event, a fundraising boon for cashstrapped towns. But association founders were soon faced with a deep metaphysical question: What is the essence of a lawn mower? Is it the size, horsepower, blades? They decided that the lawn mowers had to use at least 50 percent of the original frame. Then came a problem. “They got to going so fast that it wasn’t very safe,” says Evans, “so we needed to put more framework under them.” For Morgenroth, racing is a family affair. His grandfather, 83-year-old Marvin Morgenroth, was an association founder. “The main reason I’m here he says, “is because my dad always gave me a hard time about not spending enough time with my grandfather. So I said, ‘okay, I’ll take care of that. I’ll go spend the weekend with him and we’ll work on lawn mowers, `cuz that’s what he likes to do.” It’s also what Cody’s girlfriend, 30-year-old firefighter Barbie Boubel, likes to do. In Kirby, Boubel competed against 73year-old Paul Jett, a former NASCAR driver with the serenity of a Zen master. Boubel, in contrast, spent the final moments before the race cramming stuffed animals into her black zip-up jacket. “I always have to race with at least Dino,” she explains, referring to the stuffed dinosaur she totes along for good luckand a little extra padding never hurts. As the starting lights drop from red to green, Boubel and Jett race 150 feet to the finish line. Boubel has the early lead. But in lawn mower drag racingas in life itselfthere’s a rule of thumb to always consider: “If the thang starts that easy, then there must be something wrong.” Looking like the first man to reach nirvana going 65 mph on a lawnmower, Jett wins the race. Boubel blames her loss on technical problems. “My lawn mower is always squirrelly,” she tells him. “If it hadn’t have been I would have kicked your butt.” “In other words,” says Jett, finally breaking his quiet composure, “if you’d have beat me, you wouldn’t have lost.” As the sun sets in Kirby, Boubel props herself up on one of the hay bales that line the track and re-hashes the day with Dougherty, her former boss. They are soon joined by the Morgenroths. All agree that the right lane was horrible, that someone leaked oil on the track, and that the pavement near the starting line was way too slick. And yet Dougherty is sure that this is just the beginning of what will turn out to be a good season. “I just think it’s neat as can bethe excitement, the speed, the camaraderie, the sausage and brisket.” Ah, yes, the joys of the homeland. Chris Mahon is an Observer legislative intern. MAY 13, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9