“Can I help you?”
The kid was wearing a red Big Box vest.
“Sure,” I told him, “I am looking for a scythe.”
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.”
“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?”
“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?”