A bit of a story here ...

After my freshman year in college, I spent the summer back at home with my parents, full of self assured cockiness and knowledge of the world.  The summer was finally here! Dad, however, seemed unimpressed.  He evidently had other ideas about the summer stretching before me.   The grass and alfalfa in the backyard, an acre in size, seemed to need cutting.  I must have scoffed at the idea of trooping through this growing forest with a mere hand mower as he readily provided another suggestion. "When I spent time on the farm in my summers, we used a scythe. You need a scythe." I'm pretty sure my immediate response was "huh?", although it was undoubtedly inaudible. "Call around tomorrow and see if you can find one."

Dutifully, the next day I began the quest.  With some secret embarrassment, I had quietly looked the word up in the dictionary the night before to make sure I knew how to spell it!  Now, armed with my newly gained knowledge, I went through the roster of hardware and farm supply stores in the nearby city. "A what?" was the frequent response, to which I could now provide a detailed explanation. "No, we don't have anything like that."  One enterprising salesman on the other end even tried to convince me he had a "gas powered scythe" that would cut just about anything. By this, I believe he meant a weed trimmer, but I didn’t pursue it much further.  It sounded tempting, but I was doubting whether that’s what Dad had in mind.  

Store after store was crossed from the list.  Finally, out of 'big store' options, I decided to try the small supply store in the little town nearby. A collectors dream, this store was seemingly stacked from floor to ceiling with every possible type of item. Tables held the most random collection of goods, from obscure pipe fittings and faucets to pots and pans of all sizes, any number of tools, and even doodads to stick on your dashboard. I seemed to recall having seen an odd array of various garden tools and farm implements hanging from every nook and cranny in the place, so it seemed plausible that they might have one.  "Would you you happen to carry scythes?" I skeptically asked, already knowing the answer. "What size you looking for?" was the reply. "I, Uhhh, ....." I was struck dumb, not quite anticipating this predicament. "What sizes are there?" I tentatively inquired.  "12 inch or 20. Hand scythe or full length. Handles are oak or ash, but the oak is more expensive.". Wow!  Now we were talking. After getting the prices, I called Dad at work and relayed the good news.  "Get the full size 20 inch ash."  Ok .....

Soon I was in the store, walking wide eyed amongst the tables piled high with the world of hardware and more. It was if some industrial “Horn of Plenty” had suddenly spewed forth the contents of every hardware store in the land. I asked about the scythe and was led to the back of the store. There they were, ominously hanging on the wall. If you’ve never seen a real one, a scythe is a thing which is simultaneously beautiful and sensuous, and yet brutally efficient and forbidding in its looks. It is obviously a tool, but readily emits a sinister, evil aura. The long curved, razor sharp blade sits perched atop a sinuously warped solid wood staff.  Perhaps I've just seen too many grim reaper images, but as tools go, this is one that immediately sparks the imagination and desire in a 19 year old male. It was damn sexy and I was in love.  I had to have this baby!  Gingerly, I set it in the bed of the pickup. I stared at it warily.  It seemed ready, at a moment’s notice, to leap up and slice my arm off. But then, that was part of its allure too.

With great anticipation, I rushed this treasure home. This thing was going to rip through that growth like butter!  Without hesitation, I carried it out to a heavy stand of grass. Awkwardly, I tried to get a grip on it. The two handles sticking out of that sinuous staff seemed out of alignment.  I tried again and flailed at the grass. Nothing!  Not even a single blade of grass fell. Using the logic of young maleness, I flailed even harder. Still nothing!  Time after time, sweep after sweep, I obtained only minimal results. Now sweating heavily, my ego was rapidly deflating. This thing, for all its beauty and sinister promise, was useless.  Defeated, I leaned it the corner of the garage and sulked off, silently cursing this folly. 

In the evening, Dad came home from work.  The inquiry about the purchase eventually came. We went out to where I had left it in the garage.  I somehow admitted to him that I "had not quite mastered the skill of the scythe" yet. He picked up the scythe and inspected it over its length. I realize now, as I'm writing this, that probably in his mind, he was remembering the same love and fascination with this instrument that I had felt earlier.  How could he not?  At the time, though, it seemed he was just judging my purchase.  "The blade needs to be sharpened." he stated matter of factly. I reached for a file on the work bench. "No, we'll need to hammer it out." he said as he stopped me. Using a small hammer on an anvil, he began to ping the edge of the blade, thinning it out to a razors edge. Having worked the blade down its length, we finally used the file to clean up the edge. Then we walked out to the grass.  He grasped the handles, right hand in front, left hand in back.  What had seemed so awkward and ungainly earlier suddenly became natural. The curve of the staff naturally fit around his body. He tentatively swung the scythe in a low bent arch, getting the feel of the motion again.  With more confidence, he swung again, this time sheaths of tall grass laying over neatly behind the blade. Moving forward, he soon had cut a smooth swath through the grass forest….

After several trials, I began to get the motion down. Through the summer, I slowly gained some ability with this tool, although my skill never was perfect. This beautiful and dangerous lady, I realized, is not easily tamed.

So what, you ask, is this diversion doing in a blog about bees!?  An appropriate question, I suppose.  Standing in the garden the other evening looking into the bee yard, I am telling myself that one of the reasons I located the bees where they are was that the grass in that section of the yard never really grows well, and that would be a good thing when you don't want a noisy, smelly mower next to a thriving, active hive of stinging insects. I'm telling myself this as I'm noting that this year, for whatever reason, the grass there is almost two feet tall. I've hand pulled the grass under the hives, but the rest of the bee yard is too big for that.  And then I remember the lady in the shed. She’s been there for years, always in the corner of my eye and mind, threatening to slice me as I reach across the shed for a rake or shovel.  I had Dad bring it up when he and Mom moved. It was just a nostalgic thing at the time, and I haven't used it since that summer many years ago. But ...  A little sharpening later, and the memories and motion come back. Now the grass in the bee yard is cut.  And as luck would have it, it turns out that the bees don't mind this lady either. Thanks, Dad.

Happy Fathers Day


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Comments

proc Freq
06/15/2011 20:02

Made me tear up buddy. Nice one. Happy Fathers Day Dad.

Ma Daniels
06/16/2011 09:07

Wow! what a great story for both the bees and the great Fathers Day tribute!!
Gone but not forgotten with much love fora great dad!


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