Little did I know then that he was a nuclear physicist who just wanted to develop better outdoor power equipment. Dane founded the Bob-Cat brand of equipment with an innovative snow thrower that worked better than any snow thrower on the market, I know because I sold thousands of them at my company in New York.
Dane continued his quest to make better power equipment with the introduction of the Bob-Cat commercial 21” walk-behind mowers. Up until then, the best 21” commercial mowers were so heavy their handles would break where they attached to the deck. Dane solved that by adding double walled tubing to the handles and these mower quickly became the best-selling mowers on market.
Dane was not finished with the Bob-Cat’s model development. His next creative machine was the Jaguar, a hydro-drive zero-turning rider. The Jaguar led the way to what we know now as dual-drive zero-turn mid- mount riders, like the Exmark Lazer. Again, Dane was ahead of the curve with his creative product developments.
Dane sold the Bob-Cat brand to Ransomes Sims and Jefferies, a European manufacturer of reel cutting golf equipment. Ransomes, eventually was purchased by Textron and the Bob-Cat brand still exists today under independent ownership.
Dane told me he did not like corporate life and he enjoyed designing, testing and introducing commercial equipment that helped landscape contractors get more work done faster. Dane realized that productivity was important to end users, and he continued designing better mowing equipment.
In the 1980s he started Scag Power Equipment, Inc. with the introduction of the 3-wheel mowing tractor. This mower revolutionized the industry; before long every equipment manufacturer was making a 3-wheel tractor, but Dane’s was the best.
During his time at Scag Power Equipment, Dane introduced the first dual-hydro-drive wide- area walk mower and eventually the Turf Tiger. The dual-hydro-drive walk mower was so innovative that Dane received the prestigious OEMie Award. The OEMie Award was given to Dane at the NASA Space Center in Houston, Tex., by a group of astronauts. While we were at NASA, Dane actually flew the space shuttle simulator and the astronauts watching said he was as good at it as they were. Dane was a lifelong aviation enthusiast and was a pilot for over 70 years, serving as president of the Duke Flyer Club of America.
After selling Scag Power Equipment, Dane did some equipment design consulting before getting the idea for a stand-on mower. Up until then all commercial riding mowers were sit down machines with seats. In 1996 Dane started Great Dane Power Equipment, Inc. with the Surfer stand-on mower and again revolutionized the industry.
The Surfer sold like crazy and contractors told us that it increased their productivity by as much as 25%. Dane was awarded a second OEMie for the Surfer. Dane built Great Dane Power Equipment by designing a full line of machines and eventually sold the company to Deere & Co. I still see Surfers on the job today, and hear from contractors about the time savings stand-on mowers offer.
Dane’s innovations and creativity changed our industry for the better and I’ll never forget him. He’ll be dearly missed by everyone in the green industry, but I most remember Dane as an honest and considerate man with a big heart. Dane was the never a corporate kind of guy, he loved working in his development lab and always had time to talk with anyone passing through regardless of their status and position.
We can all learn from how Dane lived, enjoyed what he was doing and treated everyone with respect. As our industry continues to evolve and move forward, let us never forget the contributions of one man who sought to go beyond the status quo and lift our focus to new heights in design and innovative development. Fly high Dane.
Editor’s note, Rick Cuddihe was a friend and associate of Dane Scag for many years.