Trina Machacek: My favorite shovel

It’s no accident that a shovel is just the right height for a person to be able to lean on. I’d bet the guy who designed the first shovel leaned on one while contemplating the perfect length. Between the handle and steel blade most people can prop themselves up under the arm. By putting a hand over the end you can put the handle under your chin and sway just a little as you rest after working with your shovel. It’s not like a rake. A rake just doesn’t have the ability to rock and move back and forth like the curve on a good shovel. Are you feeling it?

There are levels of shovels. I own several shovels. Round, square, scoop and dare I say snow. Some are just basic $10 shovels. My scoop is aluminum. There is one though. One shovel that I go to over and over again. In my opinion it’s the best shovel in the world. It was used for years by my other half when he was flood irrigating the 600 acre family farm. It’s got a solid back, the blade is on the small side as it was used to put in irrigation dams in ditches and carried many miles up and down fields. The handle is wood (this was way before fiberglass handles were in vogue). The handle is getting worn and there is black electrical tape wrapped around the end. I think I did that to identify it from the others in the lineup. But only until I figured out how special this one shovel is. Yes my other half knew his shovels and this one is perfect in the world of shovels. Here’s why.

A hollow back shovel is not worth picking up. Stamped out of metal that is not much better than pot metal usually they have big awkward scoops that were designed by someone who has never ever shoveled gravel. The size of the scoop of a shovel needs to be in line with the ability and endurance of the person running the shovel. In my case this one shovel has a smaller scoop, round nose, and is easily sharpened. Yes sharpened. If you have ever stuck a shovel into sod and had to jump up and down on it to get it thru the grass – your shovel needs to be sharpened. But! Yep a dull “but.” But sharpening a shovel takes years of experience. Sharpen it too vigorously and get it too hot and you will end up with an edge that looks like teeth that need braces. Heat makes metal brittle and then it will break away in pieces. Not a good look for a smile or a shovel.

Another important thing about a shovel? Keep it clean. I know, I know. I also thought this was a tad bit weird the first time I was told to be sure to clean the shovel before I put it away. Come on it’s a shovel. You know, it gets stuck in the dirt for a living. Dirt is a big part of the shovels’ life. HAHA So I cleaned it, haphazardly. Stuck it under the hose and squirted water on it. Well that was not the correct way. You need to be sure to rub all the stuck on dirt off the metal. And the handle. After lo so many years I know now that the reason a shovel is cleaned is to keep the acid in that dirt from eating away at the shovel. Who knew?

I recently talked to a young man about shovels. He lit up like a Christmas tree as he told me he happily ended up with his grandfather’s shovel. He told me a little about the life of his grandfather and his shovel. I was impressed that he held that piece of metal and wood in high esteem. Its existence is his way of keeping that thread between he and his grandfather strong. Grandpa’s shovel will be given to his daughter at some point along with grand stories of family life. Kind of cool actually. And all because of a shovel.

So I was saddened when recently I lent my shovel out and after the project was done it was thrown down and left unattended. Like so much rubbish. I think I even let out a tiny gasp. I picked up my shovel, like it was a long lost friend, took it over to the nearest faucet and washed it. Scrubbing off every dot of dirt.

It was just as weird to me to do that as it was weird the first time I washed a shovel. My life is one weird event after another. Yours?

Trina lives in Eureka, Nevada. Find her on Facebook, Instagram or e-mail, Really!


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