Rainbow of Antique Mowers

Michigan couple’s antique mower collection paints a rainbow.


| April 2014



Dennis Merlau and his collection.

Dennis Merlau astride his GEMCO Reelrider. “Anybody can afford an old mower,” he says. “You can get one for anywhere from $25 to $200. But they do seem to reproduce. Sometimes they just plain follow you home.”

Photo by Leslie C. McManus

When it comes to antique mowers and garden tractors, Dennis Merlau knows what he likes. Red ones. Green ones. White ones. Orange. Blue. You get the picture.

“We like color,” he says, describing one aspect of the hobby he and his wife, Deb, share. “We would not want a line-up of just one color. We very much appreciate those who do that, as they are the ones to go to if you need answers on their line of equipment.”

The couple’s rainbow philosophy supports the other hallmark of their collection. “I love color and I love stuff that’s different,” Dennis says. “If it looks old and mechanical, I’m interested. I like funky.”

An early enthusiast

Collector interest in lawn and garden tractors is at an all-time high today. Small units are easy to store and haul, they’re affordable and they’re family friendly. “Little kids love this stuff,” Dennis says. “Going to a show with Grandpa is not something to be dreaded.”

Dennis got an early start in the hobby. While mowing his grandmother’s lawn when he was about 10, he decided her mower needed some work. “I remember her coming out of the house after it got quiet, when there should have been mower noise, to find me with her mower all apart, ‘fixing it.’ I’m sure as she walked back in the house, in her mind she knew she would have to get it repaired or buy a new one,” he says. “But in a short matter of time I was back to mowing with it. She was surprised and pleased, and I was just pleased.”

After that there was no looking back. Dennis took a job right out of high school working on lawn and garden equipment at a John Deere dealership. “I learned about the large tractors and equipment as well,” he says, “but my favorite equipment was and is the small things.”