First Things


| March 2002



FC_V4_I8_Mar_2002_01-1.jpg

Nancy Smith

A single-row, horse-drawn cultivator, more or less drenched in oil, sits in the machine shop of our big barn these winter days.

The cultivator's tongue is missing and one wheel is buckled, so that an ancient jack - a grandaddy-long-legs of a machine with a well-worn wooden knob on its crank - must prop it up. Chains, hung from a massive barn beam, soon will be affixed as well.

My husband, Richard, has started a new project; I expect I may get invited to 'help.'

This is a cultivator from his childhood. For decades, it sat in the fence row along the old lane back of the house.

His dad never talked about it, he says, and of course never used it, so it became a plaything to the little boy, alone, charged with entertaining himself within eyeshot of the kitchen window.

Naturally, he'd sit on it and pretend to cultivate. Climbing up the wheels to the seat, trying to make the rusted levers move, to figure out how it worked, he memorized every part.