THE PACKER-Combo-Mower - It cuts! It mulches! It edges! It whacks! - was born in the dead of winter, when Bruce Packer, 78, was booted out of the house he'd rented for 18 years across Borbeck Avenue from his Rhawnhurst neighbor, Dennis Gesker, 73, who took him in.
Packer had dreamed up a lawn mower on steroids that did everything but kill crabgrass and swat mosquitoes. He told Gesker about it.
"I've worked on mowers all my life, finding them in the trash, fixing them up, selling them at flea markets," said Packer, who has been a meat cutter for 60 years.
"I said to myself, 'A lawn mower only cuts in the middle. What if it could edge the lawn and whack the weeds while it's cutting and mulching grass?' "
In Gesker's garage, which he calls a "lawn-machine graveyard" because it's littered with the remains of mowers and whackers, the two men deconstructed an old mower, and commenced to tinkering and arguing.
"We fought about everything from whether the [mulching] disc should be aluminum or space-age plastic, to whether the gears should be driven by heavy rubber bands or O-rings," Gesker said.
While they fought, they bonded. "He's my best friend," Gesker said dryly. "Shows you the dearth of best friends out there."
When their beloved cats - Gesker's "Louie-Louie" and Packer's "Shadow" - died last year, the two inventors buried them side-by-side near the garage, under daffodils that Gesker's wife MaryAlice's dad planted 40 years ago while she watched from the kitchen window as a girl.
Cats melt Packer's heart. He gets up at 4 a.m. and leaves for work by 5 a.m. so he can feed dozens of stray cats that live near Illg's Meats in Chalfont, Bucks County, before he goes inside.
"They're waiting for me when I drive up," Packer said. "I'm not going to sit in my van eating breakfast while they're out there crying. I feed them first. It makes my heart feel good."
So does the thought that his Packer-Combo-Mower dream could soon become reality.
Gesker called upon the brief-writing skills he honed as a divorce lawyer to write the patent application, which is awaiting government approval.
Gesker said he's long-retired from divorce law because, "After I got just about everybody in Parkwood divorced, I couldn't go to my kids' Little League games there without someone coming up to me and accusing me of breaking up their family."
His only previous experience as an inventor was his "hockey puck with a golf ball stuck in it" that failed to capture the Philly street-hockey market.
But this is so much bigger that Gesker wrote to Mayor Nutter, urging him to house the future Packer-Combo-Mower factory in a vacant Northeast Philadelphia building to "bring real jobs back to the city."
He advised the mayor to check out the mower video on packercombomower.com.
He hasn't heard back yet, but he's hopeful.
"This is not your daddy's lawn mower," Gesker said, echoing what he hopes will be the sales slogan. "The power on the edger and the whacker can knock the fillings out of your teeth."