There is an old adage that tells us “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” That pretty much describes why there is rust. Rust comes on when something sits idle, unused, and then begins the trip into nothingness. A pile of rust. Something that will eventually be blown to the four corners of the earth. Forgotten. HA! I laugh in the face, the dusty red face of rust and that slide into nothing. There is too much to do while we are here doing what we do when we do it all. I will admit this became pretty clear when I looked at my shovel a few days ago. First let me tell you what I see when I see my shovel. It is a tool of course, a long-handled tool as it is called in the hardware business. Rather self-explanatory. But! Yes, a long-handled reach for a “but.” My shovel was not always mine, in its first 50, yes 50 years of life, it belonged to my other half. He used it to irrigate every morning and evening during some 30-plus years while farming some 900 acres with ditches, corrugates and memorable orange rolled plastic dams. Then when he wasn’t looking, I would use it because after all that work it was all ready “broke to lead.” It is still leading me from hole to hole in my life. I learned a lot watching that shovel over the years. Now that my other half has zoomed on to heaven, “our” shovel is all mine. That’s what I see when I grab up that long-handled tool today. It is perfect. Sure, it needs a new handle as it has not been in water every day, so the wood has dried, shrunken and is a bit cracked. I won’t get a new handle until this one breaks, and I don’t see that happening anytime. It has a wrap of black electrical tape on the end of the handle, and I covet that tape because I remember him putting it on to mark “his” shovel from a ne’er to well one that was supposed to be mine that I never used much. Oh, you know, you just know when you grab a shovel if it’s meant to be YOUR shovel. The blade, the scoop-y part, is a smaller size and most importantly it has a solid back. Not hollow like what we would call “town” shovels. This is a farm shovel through and through. I learned how to dig a perfect straight square hole with my shovel. So, when I walked by it a few days ago, where I left it leaning up against the garage, and looked it up and down and saw rust on the edge of the blade? I was embarrassed and sad. Oh, it was clean. I know that it’s important that every tool used needs to be cleaned after use. So, when I used it earlier in the spring, to dig up some grass where grass was not supposed to be growing, I took it over to the water and washed the mud off. Then it sat. For a good month. Then rust grabbed it by the blade and began to gnaw. Totally unacceptable. The best defense is a good offense, so I grabbed my shovel and started to stick weeds. This is an art also taught to me with this shovel. A light touch to go just below the surface of the dirt, cut off the weed then a slight flick to turn the devilish weed upside down as you move along. I thought that flick was to make sure the weed was cut off and would then dry and die a ghastly weed death. But no, no, no. It is purely done so as you go from weed to weed and you start to run out of weeds to “stick” you can tell the ones you have already stuck because they are the ones upside down. Trust me here. If you don’t flick you can spend a lot of time re-sticking weeds that have already been stuck. So, the flick is a must. Yes, there is an art to anything you do with a shovel. It took no time at all for me to work off the rust and soon a bit of shine was back on the edge of my shovel. That is one way of knowing you have accomplished something. That shine on your shovel. After about half an hour of sticking weeds, I took a break. Here then is another art. The shovel leans! Such a much-needed life skill to have. It will take years to master. I hardily recommend you practice leaning on your shovel daily. Trina Machacek lives in Eureka. Her books are available online or email her at email@example.com for a signed copy.
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