I have written about my childhood neighbor and his wife before. Mr. Mister and Mrs. Mister of Ryan Ave, Fort Worth, Texas. Every kid should be so lucky to have known the original mad scientist.
Pictured above is Mr. Mister’s early prototype of “The Mister Mower 5000,” a self-propelled riding reel mower suitable for golf courses and yard snobs. This baby was something else.
Constructed from junk jet aircraft parts he pilfered from Carswell Air Force Base, his employer, this little hummer would reach a top speed of 20 miles per hour and cut the grass so low it would give an ant a flat top haircut. It was the first riding mower with a zero-turning radius, a drink holder, an ashtray, and an under-dash air conditioner taken from a wrecked Chevy Corvette. The fathers in our neighborhood would gather and watch when Mr. or Mrs. Mister would mow their front lawn. Mrs. Mister was a Hollywood starlet type, so she usually garnered the most significant crowd because she always wore a bikini bathing suit for maximum tanning effect.
In 1956, sales for “Toro” lawnmowers were sagging, so after learning of Mr. Misters’ new invention, the executives arranged a demonstration of his invention at the Colonial Country of Fort Worth, home to the prestigious “Colonial Golf Tournament.” Mr. Mister was ecstatic.
The demonstration was the day before the big golf tournament, so the Fort Worth big wigs could attend and be handy for photo-ops. The Misters arrived with the “5000” strapped to its custom-made trailer towed behind their menstrual red Alfa Romeo sports car. Fred and Ginger, their poodles, were strapped into their car seats, both wearing head scarfs and sunglasses like Mrs. Mister. Ben Hogan was almost as impressed with the invention as with Mrs. Mister, so he asked if he could be the first to drive the contraption. Of course, Mr. Mister, a huge Hogan fan, agreed and instructed Mr. Ben to operate the mower. Keep in mind, this machine was experimental and subject to total failure at any moment.
The mower was rolled into place on the 18th green, which was a bit shaggy and in need of a buzz. Ben Hogan, his ever-present cigarette in his mouth, seated himself on the machine. Mr. Mister set the required mowing height and gave Ben a few final instructions.
Now, Ben Hogan was the world’s best golfer at that time, but he didn’t know Jack-squat about driving or operating any form of machinery. So Ben put the mower in gear and started around the green. “Ooohs and Ahhhs” from the crowd gave him a bit of encouragement; the newsboys were snapping some great shots, folks were clapping and whistling, so he upped the speed a bit and pulled a lever underneath the seat, hoping to increase the efficiency of the “5000.”
At that moment, Mr. Mister realized that he had failed to warn Ben about that one lever that was hands-off. Too late. Ben engaged the “Scalp” mode, which increased the power and lowered the blades to the “Eve of Destruction” setting. At twenty-five miles per hour, the “5000” and Ben Hogan holding on for his life dug up the 18th green deep enough to plant summer squash and Indian corn. Dirt and dwarf Bermuda was flying like a Texas twister. The Leonard Brothers, part owners of the club, fainted in unison. Mrs. Mister, a track star in her early years at Berkley and still in great shape, sprinted to the runaway mower and leaped onto Ben’s back, hoping to reach the kill switch, another part Mr. Mister had failed to show Ben.
Mrs. Mister made a final attempt to reach the switch by climbing over Mr. Hogans head and wrapping her track star legs around his neck. Finally, on her last effort, she reached the toggle, and the mower abruptly stopped, throwing her and Mr. Ben off the machine and into the beautiful pond adjacent to the green.
Ben waded out first, lit a Camel, and strode across the destroyed green to the bar where he ordered two double Scotches. Mrs. Mister, wearing a promotional white tee-shirt with ” The Mister Mower 5000″ printed on the front, waded out of the pond to a round of applause. The news photographers were popping flashbulbs like firecrackers.
Of course, Toro passed on the mower, Mr. Mister was distraught until he started his next invention, the 18th green was re-sodded in a few hours, Ben Hogan won the Colonial Tournament, and Mrs. Mister inaugurated the first Wet Tee Shirt Contest in Texas.