Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Last week my friend asked if she could borrow a tool to cut long grass. She told me her grass and brush was too tough and long for a weedeater. She said "Do you have a sickle? I know you have a lot of tools." I don't have a sickle but I have a scythe. The scythe is not only an ancient tool, it is a great tool. It ranks with the binder and the combine in the march of agricultural harvesting technology. I lent her my scythe and a stone. You can maintain a scythe's sharpness with a stone, but from time to time, if not used much it needs a grindstone for starters. Nowadays, it is sadly not used much! When I was 17 and 18, I worked for the CNR as a section man in the Touchwood Hills for my summer job. Our June job was to cut the long grass on the right-of-way. Five men would move along, cutting between two telephone poles, and then leapfrog ahead to the next available interval. After each cut we'd roll a cigarette of course! Because the right-of-way is a downward slope and we were responsible for six miles of track, we always cut on the downward slope side since it was easy and fast . Once you got going in tandem there was some irregularity in 'smoke time' determined by the fastest man. Of the five of us, no one wanted to be the slowest man but after an hour the pace evened out. When you have six miles out and six miles back the only time you hurry is the last 10 yards or the last ten minutes in any job. The important thing about the scythe is to keep it sharp. The stone has to be used in the correct way! It takes time to learn to sharpen the blade to make the job easy. No job , however so humble, is simple. To cut effectively, one develops a rythym much like a golf swing, with the back stoke equally important as the cutting stroke. The swing becomes relaxing! The blade of the scythe leads at a 15 degree angle from your coronal plane. I haven't seen my friend since she borrowed the scythe but I hope she enjoyed it. There is no finer feeling than a sharp tool, slicing through long grass, which lies down in geometric windrows at your bidding.