Greg Pike – Lawnmower Man

Writers’ Trigger: Once you start writing on a regular basis, you move beyond following the plot when you are reading the work of others. You start attending to the craft. You begin reading like a writer – thinking about what works and doesn’t work – adapting the author’s strategies that do work.

Powerful first sentences are critical. Consider the following: From Ambrose Bierce who begins “An Occurrence at Old Creek Bridge” with “A man stood upon a railroad bridge in Northern Alabama, looking down into the swift waters twenty feet below.” This sentence takes you back (what factors led him to the bridge) and forward (what does he plan to do)?

Or, I love this first sentence. Dorothy Parker begins “Big Blonde” with the following sentence. “Hazel Morse was a large, fair woman of the type that incites some men when they use the word ‘blonde’ to click their tongues and wag their heads roguishly.”

Or, when James Baldwin wrote “Sonny’s Blues,” he began with “I read about it in the paper, in the subway, on my way to work. I read it and couldn’t believe it, and I read it again.”

In all three cases, these first sentences raise questions. Why do we read beyond the first page? We read to learn the answers to the questions.

  • Begin a short story using one of these three sentences.
  • Study these model sentences. Think about why they are so powerful. Write three, first sentences that will engage the reader. If you begin with a mystery, your readers will  turn the page to discover the answers.


Eight months a year Greg Pike is on the road with his dog, his cat, and his rat. If he comes to a town near you, you won’t miss him. Greg is tall, thin, sinewy and weather-beaten. He has kind eyes. And you are thinking, “I know a lot of guys like that.” OK. I grant you more clues. 

If he is driving cross-country, you will note that his transportation is a riding lawnmower which tows a trailer.

If you happen upon him in the street, you will think you are seeing things. His dog is on a leash. The dog wears a canvas/leather jacket to provide purchase for his cat. The cat rides on the dog’s back. And riding on the cat’s back is a white rat.

Eight months a year, Greg travels about the country. During cold weather, he winters over in Bisbee, AZ. At present Greg is in Westcliffe waiting on repairs to his lawnmower. Once he has his vehicle back, he’ll head south to Texas and then I imagine he’ll hunker down in Bisbee.

Greg’s passion is peace.  His testimony is his three unlikely pets. His motto is “If we can get along, why can’t everyone?” 

Yesterday I walked to the grocery store with Greg. I assumed that he would tie up the dog once we arrived. But I wondered about the cat. How silly I was to worry. No tie-up was needed. We reached the entrance to the grocery. Greg told the dog to lie down. The dog lay down. The cat lay on top of the dog. The rat lay on top of the cat. A brief command of “Stay” was all it took.

I haven’t been so impressed since seeing a cat and rat act in a Moscow Circus. The trainer had a number of cats and rats. Releasing first a rat and then a cat and then the others in sequence, the cats and rats walked a tightrope.

For those of us who can’t train our cat to stay off the furniture, these acts humble us.

To see Greg Pike and his animals in action, I suggest watching a video at The quality isn’t the best, but the content speaks for itself.


About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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3 Responses to Greg Pike – Lawnmower Man

  1. Martha says:

    I don’t agree with that San Fransisco crowd ‘obstruction’ nonsense, nor any such dangerous illegal ‘laws’ in America. The only measurable danger in America now are those who illegally pass illegal ‘laws’ punishing mostly the innocent.

    HOWEVER – The guy IS a beggar, and has been since his release from Federal Prison in the early 1980′s, and since his Crack-Cocaine (and other?) arrest(s) more recently. He is severely paranoid (for what reason??) and is understood to refuse to openly give his mailing address to even his family members.

    Interestingly, Greg Pike had a very distinguished brother who has just raised at least 2 Foster daughters and recently put one in College, and who was working towards his PH.D. – before this particular brother of Greg’s was forced to flee the U.S. only because of a known false arrest/wrongful conviction 25 years ago suddenly (and unlawfully) punishing him (unprovokingly punishing Greg Pike’s only professional brother 25 years after-the-fact).

    This is being mentioned because the apparently jealous Greg Pike ‘did nothing to prevent’ the horrific false-conviction long-ago of his professional brother (the only professional in Greg’s psycho-warped family).

    So before your heart goes out to ‘Gregory Pike’ – the Dog, Cat, Rat man… please think of what he must have done to put himself in that lifetime Bum-like situation, and what he’s done to some of his family sustaining his dangerous paranoia. But Greg certainly is not the only one to blame for his obvious & evident short-comings in life; it is widely believed that his crazed & abusive Mother should have never had any children, and perhaps should have been locked-up in the local Psycho Farm instead.

    But many thanks to Greg’s ‘message of peace’ considering all he’s been through in his hard life.

  2. timeout2 says:

    Dear Martha, Before I wrote the blog on Greg, I did a bit of research and you did not tell me anything I didn’t know. However, I thank you for adding a third dimension to my blog. The story in its totality raises many social issues. His training the dog, cat and the rat are just a fraction of the total story.

  3. Martha says:

    Dear timeout2,

    You fairer view is greatly appreciated. And, Gregory should at least see credit for what he had to start with in his notably unfair life. I was familiar with his bizarre family since the early 80’s in Sierra Vista, Az., and I regretably failed to hide the fact how sorry I also am for he & his siblings.

    Martha O.

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