Monday, December 10, 2012

Old Fangled

This may sound a little silly, but there is an old, old tool which I have wanted to try using for years. I admired its simple elegance, its utilitarian strength, and the fact that it had served humanity without fail for centuries. I had never tried one before though, or even held one for that matter, simply because I didn't have one of my own. 

The name of this old relic of our agricultural past is the 'scythe'; the world's first lawnmower.

Handheld, this cunning little invention was used for making hay, cutting the grain crops, tidying around the cottage, and possibly even the occasional need for fending off unwanted visitors. I don't even remember when or where I first saw/heard about this thing known as a scythe, but I was fascinated. 

I started reading up more on scythes as the seasons fell away into years... I watched Youtubes about them, found yellowed antique books with pictures of farmers with their scythes, and told myself that some day I would have to get one for myself. Even though I really wasn't sure in the end how to even work the contraption. 

And then of course something akin to reality sank in. Why on earth was I so captivated by this tool? Why, of all things, should I be interested in something that cuts grass?? I couldn't answer myself, except for the seemingly irrelevant explanation that I am an "old fangled" person. You hear of "new fangled" contraptions all the time, and that term was once applied to the Tin Lizzie automobile when it was first invented. So if there's a "new fangled" in this world, then does that mean that there can be an "old fangled"? If not, then I am hereby officially creating the term. Your welcome. I coined the term one rainy afternoon while scribbling away at one of my book proposals (that, um, still hasn't been proposed due to a busy schedule and a fear of actually doing it). In the midst of doing long handed notes being crazily jotted down on lined paper, the idea of 'old fangled' came upon me like a spring sunrise. It was just there. I think I was writing about goats, so I'm not sure how the idea for said term was suddenly thought up, but it came anyway. I turned a new sheet of paper and in big, bold letters I wrote, 'Old Fangled'. It would someday be a book title, I hoped and dreamed. And still hope and dream it yet. But for now it's a term that I use for myself. 

Some things just feel right to people (most would call them "convictions") and to this farm girl, doing things the old fashioned way just sits right with me. There's something about returning to the ways of old that feel correct. It's in my blood, I guess. It's a primal and feral thing that only a few select can understand as well. We are strange birds who are happy with wood instead of steel, clay instead of plastic, and the sound of hooves on asphalt instead of rubber tires. We're a happy lot though. 

So when I was informed at work this morning that one of our jobs required using a scythe, my old fangled self did an inner squeal of glee. Seriously?? I get to use a scythe today? For real and truly?? 

I picked up one of the two scythes available and felt a moment of hesitation as I realized that I had NO idea what I was doing with this thing. How hard can this be though? I mean, all we're doing is cutting down vegetation, right? And if you just whack at the plants hard enough then they're bound to get cut, right? My first few swings were clumsy and awkward; like trying to dance a completely new dance with someone whom you don't know very well (or not at all). My hands gripped the old, worn wood; if this was a waltz, then I was confusing the movements with a polka. Then there's always that moment when I have to tell myself to relax and just let the learning come as it pleases. I have this insane fear of not doing something right, right away. Learning curves are not something I consciously allow myself, but know that there's no way around them. The result is feeling like a failure and a dunce before my time. You would think that I would stop doing that to myself seeing as I've identified the problem. Some things can't be changed. Or at least not changed quickly.

My body began warming up, and I found myself getting to know this dance partner known as the scythe. I was having a strange deja vu moment as I caught on to the rhythm required. I think I've done this before... I hadn't though, but the feeling was there, and the feeling is there for others that I've seen as I've taught them other old fangled arts such as milking a goat, spinning yarn, or making cheese. There's something oddly familiar when we return to the heritage of our past and re-learn the secrets of our ancestors. 

My friend, and the day's working partner, went and found a whetstone so that I could sharpen the blades of our scythes. This I did know how to do. Goodness, I have dulled so many knives in the past from using a whetstone improperly that I despaired of ever learning. But this learning curve too, I passed and with flying colors. Moving briskly, my palm sized whetstone made metallic 'shlick, shlick, schlick', noises as I carefully took metal off the long, curved blade. First use the rough side and get a nice burr on the edge; yep, just like that. Now flip over to the fine side of the stone and finish it off. See the gleam? 

Sharpening the scythe made a world of difference. Suddenly the dance steps made sense. I found a sweet rhythm and the methodical movements were made all the more enjoyable by seeing the big windrow of brush that I was creating in my wake. It required no fuel, no oil, and no noise, but here I was working merrily away with an old, old tool. It felt right.  

I put the scythe away with a bit of reluctance. The clock had struck 12 'o' clock for this Cinderella; the magic of the moment was broken and over. I had to come out of the past and back into the present. The memory remained though and I came to a conclusion this afternoon: I need one of these old fangled things for myself. 

I could use a weed eater instead. I could use the lawn mower. I could use some nasty, chemical spray on the weeds. I could use a cow to graze the grass down. I could let it grow and not even deal with it.

But I want to use a scythe because I am an old fangled person. And sometimes you just have to go with a gut instinct on these things. This I know to be true.


Anonymous said...

I'm terrible at writing, I can never seem to say on paper what is in my head. When I read your posts it feels like you're writing for me. I love Old Fangled.

Kevin Naylor said...

Thanks for the inspiration . Do you recommend where to get one. Want to start using one.