Posts Tagged ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’

Sometime around 1990 I broke a shovel while trying to lever a stump out of my wife’s garden. I walked up the hill to our neighborhood hardware store and asked one of the boys there for a good shovel. I’d like to think this was bearded Greg, our favorite. Whoever it was handed down a shovel from the wall rack and said, “This is our best.”

Greg wasn’t kidding. I used that shovel in the yards and gardens of the three houses we’ve owned, digging holes for the A-Z of green growing things that Special D has planted and digging out the remains of plants that displeased her. I moved rocks. I dug post holes. I dug a ditch when one of our pipes burst underground and the plumber, who couldn’t maneuver a back hoe in the confined space at the side of our house, threatened to do it himself for a breathtaking $100 per hour.

I levered out many a stump of a plant or tree that just didn’t work anymore. I’m good at it; so good, in fact, that my metal name is Stümp Gryndr, though the sporting press refers to me as Death to Rooted Things. Here’s an azalea stump I vanquished in 2009, with a 35-pound corgi, the late Teddy, for scale:

Teddy digs it out 0909
Notice: No corgis were hurt or inconvenienced in the extraction and removal of this stump. This corgi received a transfer of one (1) Alpo Snap as soon as he was released from duty.

But last week I fought a four-year-old vine maple stump and the stump won. My shovel gave me 25 years of good service. I wish I could give you the name of the manufacturer but I long ago wore any corporate iconography off the handle.

Recycle, reuse, spend some intimate time with your tools
As a New Englander, I hate waste. What was I going to do with a broken shovel? Turn it into a stake for the garden. You pound these into the corners and when you drag your hoses across the lawn the stake keeps you from decapitating something your spouse might get wicked mad about.

Here’s the patient before surgery.

Shovel 1

Cut off the blade. I took it to my local recycler and lowered it, after a moment of respectful silence, into the metals bin.

Shovel 2

I sliced off the rubber jacket, which amazingly had stayed snug to the handle all these years, and exposed the original color of the wood.

Shovel 3

Then, through a mysterious process known only to me and Black & Decker, I sharpened one end.

Shovel 4

The result is a stake that’s just over a yard long (one full meter to the Russian Federation reader who visited this blog today). Use a heavy hammer to bury it about halfway. Here’s a stake I made earlier this summer:

Shovel 5

What if you don’t want to wait until you break a shovel?
You could invite me over to break one. Better yet, go to estate sales. The people who are passing away now and taking leave of their earthly possessions bought long-handled garden tools in an era when those handles were made of a dense wood that lasts a long time underground and exposed to the weather. I usually find them for a dollar or two. Recycle the metal business end and I won’t yell at you!

On the day I broke my shovel, I walked up the hill to our neighborhood hardware store and asked one of the boys there for a good shovel. I told him my story and said, “I’ll be back for my next shovel around 2040.” He said, solemnly, “I will not be working here.”

Next post: I’m gonna fill you full of lead (No. 2-5/10).

Random Pick of the Day
Petra Haden and Bill Frisell, Petra Haden and Bill Frisell (2003)
Includes their exquisite covers of Stevie Wonder’s “I Believe” and Coldplay’s “Yellow,” though you also have to put up with their perspectives on “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” and “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

Random Pan of the Day
Randy Newman, Land of Dreams (1988)
Some beautiful piano work here, particularly on “Dixie Flyer,” but most of it sounds like Mr. Newman’s many many many soundtracks. The rap parodies were funny in 1988, if you were white and nervous about rap. And yet this is the guy who gave us Sail Away (how can you beat “You Can Leave Your Hat On”?) and the soundtrack to The Natural (which brought the whole movie to life).