Brotherly Love Powers a Lawn Mower Trek

When Alvin Straight learned in 1994 that his brother had suffered a stroke, he bought a 1966 John Deere lawn mower, got a 10-foot trailer to haul gasoline, clothing, food and camping equipment, and set off on a 240-mile trip from Laurens, Iowa, to Blue River, Wisc. The 73-year-old couldn’t see well enough for a driver’s license, so he decided his only option was to get a riding mower. On good days, the then 73-year-old averaged about 5mph along U.S. 18, but about 4 days into the trip the engine failed, just 21 miles from where he started. He spent $250 replacing the points, condenser plugs, the generator and the starter and set off to complete his journey. He made it another 90 miles when he ran out of money and had to camp out until his next Social Security check arrived. On the next leg of the journey, Straight made it within 2 miles of his brother’s house when the mower broke down again. A farmer helped him push it the rest of the way. Henry Straight, 80 at the time, didn’t know his brother was coming, but was thrilled when he made it. Although he had numerous offers for the return trip home, Alvin opted to drive the lawn mower back. When Paul Condit, President and General Manager of Texas Equipment Company, heard that Alvin was going to make the return trip home on the lawn mower, he gave him a 17hp John Deere replacement mower worth $5,000. When Alvin passed away in 1996, a John Deere lawn mower similar to the one he used on his journey accompanied his funeral procession.