Monday, October 7, 2013

An Autumn Tonic

Since I sold my undependable weed-whacker, I’ve learned not to be so fussy about keeping the lawn trimmed. I’d been keeping a few areas near the house trimmed a bit with a good Austrian sickle that I bought in an antique store in Ohio Amish country last year. It had a slight coating of rust when I got it, but still had the original company sticker on the tanged and peened handle end. It was “new,” in other words, even though decades old.

The edges of the yard, however were too much for the sickle, and I kept putting off locating my father’s scythe that was hiding somewhere in the basement. This morning, though, the grass was still damp from last night’s rain and the day was cool, so it seemed like a good time to look up the scythe. It hadn’t been used for at least a couple years, and I’d forgotten the “discovery” of a stray piece of heavy wire during its last use. I tried to tighten the grips, but found them unwilling to turn on the bolt that holds them. I then removed the blade from the snath and took a wire brush to the tang of the blade and the metal holder on the snath. That’s when I noticed the patent date of 1921. That makes me wonder if it might have been my grandfather’s snath becoming my father’s, though it would have been covered by the patent until 1938. So, it COULD have lain in some warehouse long enough for my dad to have bought it. Who knows? It currently sports the second European-style blade that I remember him purchasing. Both were bought at a hardware store on court square by the name of Niswanders. It was one of the wonderful businesses ended by the utter stupidity of urban-renewal in my local town.

After remounting the blade, I used the same cheap aluminum oxide stone that Dad had purchased just before his passing, many years ago, to dress up the chipped edge. (We never learned to peen them, though I recently purchased the tools to do so.) I then began whetting the blade. It had been some time since I’d heard what I call the “song of the scythe” that comes from the rhythmic ringing of quickly sliding the stone down one side of the blade and then the other. It brought back a lot of memories of both him and me, working on the farm decades ago.

Today, I was only going to trim a low bank where a log road passes the edge of the yard. It was about 50 feet long by five feet wide, but the job involved mowing around two oak trees, a flower bed, three grape vines, an autumn olive, a couple volunteer blackberry plants and some horrible prickly brier that I suspect may be a noxious/invasive plant for my area (as I never saw any before this year). I want to identify it before I destroy it along with the autumn olive. The blackberries will be transplanted, while the grapes are where they’re supposed to be.

It only took a few minutes to whet the blade, do the trimming and rake the weeds and grass away. There wasn’t enough regularity to the trimming strokes to hear the “lesser” song of the rhythmic whispering of the blade slicing through the grass. While the tiny job caused me to breath harder than I have for a while, I felt great. I suppose it’s self-pity that causes me to say that I started to die the day I left the land to work in the factory, but it’s true. The blow to my soul has indirectly caused much of the deterioration of my body. Today, though, I got a good dose of tonic. I reconnected—with myself, with my past, with my father, and with a way of life and with generations of farmer ancestors unknown and long gone. I must take another dose of that tonic again soon! © 2013


Penny said...

Oh so very poignant, Gorges, that blow to your soul AND considering the tonic. When I was a little girl and asked my mom what she thought heaven would be like, she said it would probably be a place that had everything you wanted. I knew I wanted plenty of swing sets and trees and some part of me still pictures wild, rolling, pastoral hills and terraced farm land at the same time.

Gorges Smythe said...

Thanks, Penny. Then I reckon Heaven must have lots of trees and Hereford cattle (along with horses and a lot of folks I used to know).

Lady Locust said...

Keep up the good tonic. Just as it has brought back memories of your father and Gpa, some kid will say, "I remember seeing a guy using this old tool like from the olden days to cut weeds." They need to know not everything is done by machines, and there is a certain pride in a a job well done.

Gorges Smythe said...

That may be, LL! lol