I had no plans for any Father’s Day celebration, though I did think of my father, albeit briefly, while I gathered my tools for tackling the weeds. Too bad that today’s task was more than just twisting and turning the mulch around to free the roots of those pesky elm and maple seeds. Those gigantic weeds returned, almost Andromeda-like, spoiling the clean look of my gardens, as well as a long Sunday stroll.
My #1 go-to weeding implement was my Ames Co. hand weeder, the most-valuable tool in my “tool collection”. It has a history of sorts which I thought would be fun to share with you today.
When my father departed for parts unknown in January 1984, I suddenly inherited alot of his tasks, among them shoveling snow as well as gardening and yardwork. While I was no stranger to helping around the house to earn my allowance in my formative years, I never wrestled with weeds, nor mowed the lawn, due to my allergies. Besides … my father considered those his responsibilities as the “man of the house”. Quite truthfully, back in the early 80s, you didn’t see many women outside shoveling snow or doing yardwork anyway.
After my father left, Mom and I had a heart-to-heart chat wherein she asked me if I thought I could assume his responsibilities? “Why sure” I replied, without skipping a beat, then added “why not?” Perhaps I was a little overconfident about my yardwork abilities, as she did look a little skeptical when I answered. Of course, to my vain self, my idea of roughin’ it outside meant lawn seats at Pine Knob for the Summer concert series.
Spring 1984 was the first test of my mettle. The joy of Springtime’s warmish days was tempered by dandelions galore. Mom pointedly suggested I pull them (since I hadn’t yet ventured out to deal with them on my own). I distinctly remember asking “how, by hand?” I certainly didn’t want to break a nail. “Yes, by hand, or use a knife” she said. So, off we went to the now-defunct Frank’s Nursery to buy garden gloves to preserve my manicure and a weed tool to dig those little buggers out.
Thus, that hand weeder, a long metal “picker” with a forked edge and a bright-yellow handle, was my first garden tool. On the way home in the car, Mom said “if you really work hard out there, I’ll buy you something nice for Father’s Day since we won’t be spending any money for a special Father’s Day dinner and cake this year” … “that’s a deal” I replied.
Well, my first big “yard gift” arrived much more quickly than Father’s Day.
I had not seen the inside of our small garage in many years because my father’s baby, a 1972 Chevy Impala, was parked inside the attached garage and only accessible via the garage door. He used a VW Fastback for work, but every Sunday, barring bad weather, he and Mom took the Impala for a spin. The only other time the car exited the garage was for him to access the yard tools. It was a tight squeeze pulling in and out of there, so after his departure, I ran the car every night, but didn’t dare pull it out myself for fear of scraping it. By word of mouth, we had a buyer for the Impala and Mom asked a trusted neighbor to back the car out of the garage so we could finalize the sale. I wasn’t about to clip the sides of the car, which was in mint condition and the odometer read less than 1,000 miles. I’d only driven it once, to take my driver’s license road test, and my father installed curb feelers so I wouldn’t damage the whitewalls beforehand.
As soon as the car was gone, I quickly investigated the contents of the garage, but didn’t see the mower. Perhaps, my father already knew he was going to leave, because at the end of the Fall 1983 mowing season, he stored the mower in the metal shed, so it was rusted and unusable. Off we went to Livonia to a store that specialized in electric mowers.
Well, I felt pretty special the first time I cut the lawn. Several male neighbors stopped by to help lift the mower out of my Pacer hatchback, admiring it while I was unravelling my neon-colored, 100-foot cord. The neighbor across the street sauntered over and drew in a long breath, then whistled at that bright-red Toro mower and said “wowee” just like he was admiring a shiny, classic automobile. I’m sure the event rivalled the fanfare of Henry Ford’s first horseless carriage!
I finished mowing and went to the screen door and beckoned Mom to come to see how nice it looked. My pride was zapped when she asked “what about trimming around the edges Linda?” “What do you mean?” I asked (clearly irritated). She suggested I use the hand clippers on the wayward blades the mower didn’t reach. I found the hand clippers, and an hour later I was still hunching down, clip-clip-clipping away at the over-long blades of grass. Later, over a tall glass of lemonade, I whined that I would be susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome after all that clipping, so Mom promised to buy me an electric weed whipper for Father’s Day.
So, that started a trend because each year thereafter for Father’s Day, I acquired another helpful gardening gizmo until my yardwork repertoire was complete. The following year it was an edger after I protested that my father’s edging tool, which looked like an overgrown pizza cutter, tore up the grass and didn’t give the desired manicured lawn look. The next year I got a Toro leaf vacuum which helped eliminate hand-picking the feather-light maple and elm seeds out of the ornamental rocks. Next, I became the proud owner of a 24-inch sweep hedge trimmer so I could abandon the manual one I’d been using. Those electric gifts preceded the four-wheeled dolly, a spreader, a push mower for when rain thwarted using the electric mower, a stool on wheels, a “Weed Hound” weed grabber, a large metal hose reel and a nice quality unkink-able Swan hose which I still have to this day.
By then yardwork was second nature and much more tolerable. I thought I was “living the life” out in the yard and was even starting to enjoy myself. By then we had replenished all the small hand tools as well. I sure felt like one lucky gal gardener. The very last tool that I added to my yard tool collection was the pole cutter that I got for Father’s Day 2000 after my neighbor Marge brought over hers to help trim an out-of-control Pyracantha bush. I came into the house afterward and Mom said “I know – you want a pole cutter for your Father’s Day present, right?”
It’s fun for me to have a lookback at such a trivial subject of yard tools, despite overcoming those obstacles way back in the day, while trying to get acclimated to gardening. Like when Mom handed me some money and suggested I go the nursery and get bark to top off the gardens. “Sure – no problem” I said, so off I went. I drove over to Johnny’s Nursery, where one of the older men came to greet me at the door and asked if I needed assistance. I said “I need to buy some bark please” and then he asked “what kind?” Stymied, I stammered and said “just bark” … he took me to a corner and showed me the samples of at least a dozen types of bark or mulch available. I had no conception of what type was needed, nor did I understand how to compute cubic feet for bags of bark to buy. I had to return home to get a sample of my garden bark since I had no clue. It turned out to be pine. Well, who knew?
Sure, I’ve learned alot over the years, though the pleasure of gardening is no longer there. I redid the back and front yard landscaping in 1985, but I’ve lost many of my plants and bushes which has soured me on the whole ordeal, and since I began the walking regimen, I’d rather commune with nature on a walk, instead of slugging it out with the weeds and mosquitoes in the yard. As to the collection of yard tools and garden gizmos, they, just like their owner, have aged, and gotten a little worn out, but are otherwise still in good working order. I really surprised myself a few weeks ago when my next-door neighbor, Jeff, and I were chatting over the fence. He was holding onto the sleekest, long-handled, bypass loppers I’ve ever seen. Wow! They made my smallish, wooden-handled pair look like something a kid would use. He reached over the fence to nip a large elm “tree” which had embedded itself in a barberry bush, and lopped it off at the base, without skipping a beat in our conversation. I couldn’t help myself – my eyes kept sliding over to admire the shiny aluminum finish and obviously very sharp, carbon steel blades. There were even grips on the handles. I blurted out “Jeff, your loppers are awesome and put mine to shame.” He agreed saying “yes I saw yours.” Red-faced, I realized I must be suffering from lopper envy, so I pinched myself to “get a grip” because I really only use loppers once a year, and I reminded myself “Mom’s not gonna buy ‘em for you, so be satisfied with what you’ve got.”
I am ending this longish post, which I hope you found a tad funny, and not too awfully boring, by conceding that sometimes, the old and faithful tools ARE just as reliable. For nearly fifty years a pegboard has hung on the back wall of the garage. It has the usual row of screw-on caps which bottles are brimming with nails or tacks and dried-up hose washers. A few items, like a level, or a long-necked gasoline funnel, I’m sure I’ll never use. Likewise, in the category of cast-off tools that I’d never used are a neat row of saws, hanging on their respective pegs. Now, I’ve never given much thought to anything on the pegboard – it was just not my domain. But, when I had to cut my holly bush down a few weeks ago, I eyed those saws and wondered if one would be up to the task. I know nothing about saws or which one to use, so, like Regis Philbin used to suggest, I had to “phone a friend” … I got the scoop on the saw for the job and it worked perfectly.
So, the way I see it … I came; I saw(ed); I conquered.