Berle Reynolds wanted to mow his yard in Ridgeland, Miss., but after undergoing treatments of radiation and chemotherapy for Stage IV cancer, he was advised to stay inside out of the heat. He didn’t want to stay inside, so instead he headed to the dealership where he bought his Snapper Pro zero-turn mower.

“I went down there and said, ‘Does someone make a lawn mower with an air conditioner?’” says Reynolds. He says he regularly visits the dealership, often just to talk. When the answer was “no,” Reynolds asked the dealership’s technician, Rusty Harris, to help him build one.

They worked together at each other’s homes throughout much of 2011. “We worked on it every day for 6 or 7 months. We did some of it at his house, some in my shop and some at the dealership when they were slow. It was a challenging project and we took it and ran with it,” Reynolds says.

“You don’t have to be an engineer to build something. You just have to want to do it.” Harris helped Reynolds build the cooling system and Reynolds built the cab and worked with another friend at a sheet metal shop to bend Lexan glass for the cab.

“I can tell you 400 ways not to do it. It was a lot of trial and error.”

Reynolds’ story merges many themes. First, he shows how much people love to mow, whether it’s for relaxation, a sense of accomplishment or property pride. Second, he demonstrates the kind of relationships that dealers should strive for, where customers come in to share ideas. Finally, he shows that some of the best innovations come from people who use the equipment.

Maybe dealers can play a bigger role in driving innovation by just listening, no matter how unusual the request might be. Shop time is billable time, but devoting some time to testing new ideas could be worth it. And, an air conditioned mower really isn’t a crazy idea.

“Think about those who are mowing golf courses or football fields. They can be out there 8 or 9 hours a day with an air conditioner, listening to their iPods,” Reynolds says.

Reynolds has a patent pending for his invention and he’s hoping that a major manufacturer might be interested in his idea. He says the air conditioner pulls about 1 horsepower off the mower engine, so doesn’t affect the machine’s performance.

“I’ve received lots and lots of calls from people asking me how much it is,” he says. He spent about $2,500 in materials and estimates that a manufacturer could produce the unit for much less than his effort.

“Can they sell it for a couple of thousand dollars? Is it worth that to a consumer? I think it is,” Reynolds says.

We wish him luck in selling his idea. Go here to see a video of the mower and check out the Facebook page.

Wonder if we’ll see it at a future Green Industry and Equipment Expo? By the way, our team is headed to GIE+Expo in Louisville, Ky., which runs this week. Let’s meet up. We’re interested in hearing your thoughts on the new products being introduced.