My Scythe

Grim-Reaper“Can I help you?”

The kid was wearing a red Big Box vest.

“Sure,” I told him, “I am looking for a scythe.”

“What’s that?”

I struggled for an explanation. This was my third store today, two of them Big Box outlets, and not one knew what a scythe was. Much less stocked one. Now I was at The Big Box Farm Store. It is the rural version of a Home Depot, the irony is that I had to drive to a big town to find one.

“It’s what death carries,” I told him.


“Google ‘Grim Reaper’ and you will see what I am looking for.”

He did.

Cooool,” he said as he clicked through the results.

“Do you have one?”

“Check Home & Garden.”

“I did but they sent me here to Farm Supply.”

“What are you going to use it for?”

“Cutting weeds.”

“Why not use a weed-whacker?”

“These are really big weeds.”

I went onto explain that I was trying to rescue my garden. My wife and I had been on a three-day vacation and by the time we returned home, our garden had vanished behind a vast wall of green.

“If they get any bigger,” I told him, “the FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) will make us put blinking warning lights on them.”

He grinned and said, “We do have gasoline powered weed-whackers.”

“How about a diesel model?”

That got another grin.

“But what I really need,” I told him, “is something stealthy because I live next door to the Minnesota Mosquito Preserve and I don’t want to tip off the nasty little creatures that dinner is close at hand.”

At the mention of the preserve, he broke into a cold sweat. He didn’t know what a scythe was – but he darned well knew about the Mosquito Preserve. Its reputation is legendary.

“Actually,” I explained, “The township weed control board ordered me to clean up the weeds. They take that sort of thing seriously.”

The clerk nodded in agreement. At least he knew something about rural life.

“The thing is,” I said, “the Mosquito Preserve is full of the same weeds. When I pointed that out, the board explained that the ragweed in my garden is considered a weed while the ragweed across the ditch is considered a valuable natural resource.”

“That makes perfect government sense,” the clerk said, “but I’ll call my supervisor, maybe he will know where you can find a scythe.”

He spoke into his squawk box and a voice squawked back, “I’ll be right over.”

I am not sure why the supervisor came. He was an older guy who had an air of been-there, done-that confidence about him. The kind of solid, competent, no-nonsense person you often find in rural areas. I’ll bet he just wanted to meet someone who had asked for a scythe.

“Stores quit stocking them years ago,” he told me, “The last one we carried had a useless aluminum blade. Your best bet would be a farm auction.”

So I gave up and few days later I ran into my neighbor, an old sheep farmer, and asked him to let me know if he heard about any auctions.

“Why do you ask?”

“I need to buy a scythe.”

“You don’t buy a scythe,” he said, “you borrow it. There is one in my shed.”

“I dunno,” I told him, “I am kind of nervous about borrowing things. My buddy Stan likes to ‘borrow’ things from me and I never get them back.”

“Uh-huh,” he said. “I know Stan, where do you think I got it?”

Author: Almost Iowa

40 thoughts on “My Scythe”

  1. It’s amazing how the difference between a weed and a valuable natural resource depends entirely upon location! And what will happen when Stan needs his scythe?

  2. My dad always preferred doing yard work the hard way. Push mower and sickle – things I see in antique stores, you know. Thanks for the laugh!

    1. I wouldn’t dream of using a push mower, I have six acres of lawn. I know that is ridiculous but a previous owner built a golf course on the property. There is no longer a course here – but the lawn is beautiful as you can see by the photo above and I can’t let it go to seed.

  3. I needed a laugh, and you always provide one. And, this time the comments are almost as funny as the post. My grandfather had a scythe and knew how to use it. I remember him sitting at a grind stone with pedals to sharpen it. We had one at one time, and I think it collected dust until we gave it away. As a follow up to Dan’s comment, can you imagine sending a kid out with one to remove weeds in the yard? The neighbors on both sides and across the road would call 911 or child welfare services all at the same time. And, here’s hoping the Minnesota Mosquito Preserve is low on residents this year. 🙂

    1. These days, if you sent your kid out to do any work on the lawn, the neighbors would call 911. Except out here in the sticks. Here 14 year olds drive half-million dollar combines.

  4. They are rare. You have to buy them over the internet. Even little brick and mortar stores cannot afford to keep them on the shelf. They take too much shelf space. Now if you would like to move on to the next category of hens-teeth look for a grape hoe. The Amish farm supply store in Kidron still deals in them. Of course their supplier is in India ! And they work great for power weeding and turning compost piles… I much enjoyed this. Very. However I am in pursuit of braces for the hens-teeth. Egg production is falling off.

  5. Brilliant as always, Iowa… Great stuff! I haven’t seen a scythe since 1976. It was my grandpa’s. Or so I was lead to believe. I seem to recall living a Laura Ingalls Wilder moment in the back yard taking down a wall of weeds with it. And almost my foot as well. I was ten, so Laura was kind of a big deal to me. But then, so was my foot.

      1. Thanks, Iowa! I’ve had the craziest busiest year in about forever, but trying to get back in the saddle again! As for the foot, well, my whole family can attest to the fact that I am bizarrely (sp?) accident prone… like “burn hand on radiator, fall backward and sever spinal cord on coat-hanger” accident prone. I’m a living, breathing advertisement for the advantages of early ballet lessons. (Needless to say, I never saw a barre until I was 18. Waaaaay too late for me…)

  6. Ha ha – did you check the scythe to see if it had your name on it?

    I remember using one of these to cut the brush on the terrace in our back yard. It was too steep for a lawn mower. I remember my dad saying he felt using the lawn mower would be too dangerous and then he sent me out there with a bent stick with a three foot blade on the end.

    1. It’s called The Logic of the Greatest Generation and goes something like this, “If you use a lawn mower on a steep hill and get hurt, you could blame the lawn mower – but if you get hurt using a hand tool, it’s your own damned fault.”

    1. He does – but I am wondering how it came to be that Stan “lent” something. He usually doesn’t do that – but if my neighbor ‘borrowed” something from Stan, I could be in serious trouble.

  7. LOL… Terrific story.
    And the store people clearly don’t watch anime… 😉
    Oh about the mosquitoes, I found a battery powered tennis racket looking thing that even gets tiny gnats. Who knows what it’s really called but Amazon named it this: Elucto Large Electric Bug Zapper Fly Swatter Zap Mosquito
    Have a thriving Thursday!

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