WOSTER: Thoughts on hot weather, shovelsI just had another example of what a wimp I’ve become since I left the farm and discovered air conditioning.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
This is a recurring theme for old guys, maybe, but I just had another example of what a wimp I’ve become since I left the farm and discovered air conditioning.
We did some serious boating over the Labor Day weekend about 15 miles above the dam on Lake Oahe. When we put the boat into the water, the wind was something in the 25 mph range, blowing sideways across the ramps. We set out looking for a sheltered spot somewhere along the downstream side of Okobojo Point, and we plowed through heavy swells all the way out from the Cow Creek launch area. We found a relatively calm spot with decent sand. Had to haul away the carcass of a massive carp to clear the air, so to speak, but that’s not completely unexpected up that way.
A summary of the day would go: About 4 p.m. the wind began to drop, and so did the temperature. The last three hours or so before sunset were glorious. The next afternoon, after the visiting family members were headed back down the roads to their real lives, Nancy suggested I do a few things to make the boat ship-shape, either for the next outing or for winter, whichever comes first. Besides the pounding the craft took on the initial trip to the beach, it had shipped a lot of water and sand as people crawled in and out, and it had taken on an impressive cargo of cracker crumbs, cherry pits, sunflower seeds and other bits of food product that gather when a family has a holiday in a boat.
I was in the garage in the boat when it hit me that the place was stifling, with not a hint of air movement. I didn’t pay much attention to the actual temperature that afternoon, but inside the garage — even with the big door open — I couldn’t feel the slight breeze, no matter how hard I tried. It reminded me of the times as a kid when I’d be asked to grab a scoop shovel and crawl into a bin of oats or rye and push the grain back into the far corners so the bin would hold all or at least part of one more truckload before we buttoned it up.
A couple of things occurred to me, and the first one wasn’t related to the heat. It was the weight of those old scoop shovels. We routinely used big, solid shovels to move anything from grain to snow. When I was learning the intricacies of farm labor, I figured this about a scoop shovel: The bigger, the better. The bigger it was, the more it would hold each time I scooped the grain or the snow. The more I moved with each scoop, the sooner the job was finished.
That might have made sense for a 17-yearold kid, but it no longer seems the least bit reasonable. A while back, when I broke my ultra-light, plastic-handled snow shovel, I went to the farm supply store and hefted a couple of scoop shovels. Good grief, they make those things heavy these days. I couldn’t swing the empty shovel for 10 minutes, much less move actual snow.
The second thing that occurred to me was heat related, and age related, too. Back on the farm, when I grew old enough to actually handle one of those scoop shovels in a way that put most of the wheat or oats or corn where I wanted it and not just wherever it spilled as I worked the shovel, I pretty much inherited the job of crawling into the bins and pushing the grain into the corners. That’s because my big brother, Jim, was a quick thinker.
At some point, as we stood together watching the oats dust billow out of a bin, our dad said the grain needed to be pushed back. Jim coughed and wheezed and said his hay fever was acting up. Both he and Dad looked at me. I thought about pleading hay fever, too, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I spit in my palms, grabbed the scoop and crawled into the dusty bin.
No big deal, then. Not for a million bucks now.