"I collect Walker Mowers,” said Jeremy Nichols, who, with wife Sara, owns and operates 4N LawnCare in Medford, OK. In business only three years, the couple already have four Walker Mowers, six decks, and a couple of attachments, including a dethatcher and blade. One mower is also equipped with a Power Dump and another with a Hi-Dump.
The small fleet maintains a range of accounts, all the way from large, four-acre properties, including more than a dozen high-end residential homes, to small properties in Medford and nearby Enid.
It all began when Jeremy and Sara wanted to instill an early work ethic in their oldest son, Jake.
“That first summer, we mowed a neighbor’s yard and picked up a few more, smaller yards around town,” said Sara, recalling that one of their first mowers was one given to them by a neighbor. “It wasn’t long, however, before my husband expanded the idea into a business plan for a new company.
“I’ve always liked to mow, and the thought of having our own business was attractive to me,” Jeremy explained. “I’m a locomotive engineer and spend a lot of time away from home. If we could grow the business, just maybe I could one day get off the train and get on board mowing lawns full-time in Medford and surrounding communities.”
Jeremy’s grandfather gave him some sound advice several years ago. He told his grandson, “You can make a living doing almost anything if you do enough of it.” The message: Find something you like to do and do it well.
Early in the second year, 4N signed a contract to mow 28 retail stores. It was time to find a better and more efficient way to get the job done. Jeremy said he had never heard of a Walker Mower but in doing some research, he found the Walker website, read the company mission statement, and viewed several videos of the mower in action.
“I was sold. I found a dealer and ordered a Model T with a GHS deck, and then purchased a Model B with a mulching deck,” he said. “My goal was to grow, and I wanted to have machines that would allow me to expand quickly. With the railroad job, I didn’t have a lot of spare time. I needed to be efficient two years ago, and I still need to be efficient today.”
“The bucket lift negates my reason for originally purchasing the Hi-Dump attachment, to stack grass high on my first trailer, but it is part of an ongoing effort to find the most efficient way to handle clippings,” Jeremy said.
For 4N, every machine and every attachment has a purpose.
“I purchased the 42-inch deck to go through gates,” he said. “For maintaining a cemetery, we often use three decks: a side-discharge and mulching deck for wide areas and a GHS deck for mowing around the headstones. The Model H with a 52-inch rear-discharge deck will make quick work of our larger properties. The dethatcher assists with spring cleanup. We scalp the Bermuda grass with a collection deck, and the dozer blade fills in irrigation trenches.”
When not driving the train or mowing lawns, 4N’s owner earned the requisite licenses to offer a full-service to customers who wanted irrigation, fertilization, and pesticide application.
This year, the company added another service by purchasing an Eco top dresser, and it launched a forum on Facebook to share ideas with other new Walker Mower users.
One would think driving a locomotive and operating a Walker Mower have little in common.
“Not so,” said Jeremy. “First, I enjoy operating equipment, all equipment from large locomotives to compact yellow mowers. Then, every train and the load it hauls is different, just as every yard is different. One day, I may be hauling new automobiles. On another, it might be grain or container cars. Back home, I may be mowing an HOA or a larger residential property, followed by a smaller back yard. In both cases, either driving a train or operating a mower, you just can’t sit back and forget about what you’re doing or stop thinking about ways to do it better.
“Having the right equipment for the task at hand makes such a difference, he continued.
“I’ve purchased different Walker Mowers and different decks to match the application, and you can’t imagine how much time and labor a power dump, Hi-Dump, or even a bucket lift saves compared to handling grass clippings manually,” he said. “Yes, being able to offer a service such as fertilization brings in additional revenue, but equally important, it gives us more control over a property to mow and otherwise maintain it on our schedule.”
When he says “us”, Jeremy is talking about Sara and Jake. Both mow lawns and keep the business going when he is out of town on the train. On some of the larger properties all three might be on the Walker Mowers, with younger son, Atley, beginning to learn the ropes, as well.
“We are expanding very quickly,” Jeremy emphasized. He glanced over at his wife for a moment and added, “Maybe too quickly at times from Sara’s perspective. But we both have the same goal in mind. It’s just a matter of how soon we want to get there.”