Toys

When people don’t think on timelines they think combines are a more practical way to harvest wheat. One farmer can go out and clean up a hundred acres without breaking a sweat. Until one of the blades break. Or some component deep down in the blocky engine. A tire retires on the early side of evening from a nice rusty screw stuck in its hide.

A sharp sickle at the end of a stick, what breaks first on it? Makes a human like a tree with a strong trunk and wide shade casting shoulders. Some of the most hardworking people I’ve ever known were afraid of shovels. Afraid of going slower. Garden hoes and self propelled push mowers.

Lovers of gadgets and vinyl seats and hands vibrated so long everything you touch for an hour afterward feels feather soft, or hands numbed altogether, blood shaken out from muscle clamped veins like clay spits out rain.

Toys. Tools.

This job would be easier if we had a skid steer. We should wait on the Bobcat. Hey man, if you let me bring over my gas powered stump parter we could stack this whole mess up faster. Until that rubber fuel line with the imperceptible cracks and spaces decides to come apart altogether. What about when you don’t slip your hand out quick enough, and you lose the most costly game of rock paper scissors ever. Just so we’re clear, we are always the paper.

Engines are the ugliest, dirtiest, rankest form of immortality ever engineered by mortal hands. The inspiration behind them seems the thinking of toddlers, banging blocks together, and having the realization one could turn wheels and tend flowers, if we could only trap and harness continuous revolutions of banging blocks.

I’ve always had bad luck with having people work with me, because they almost always go straight for my toys. Chainsaw. Weedeater. Tractor hovered over a finish belly mower. I’ve seen them break. There are thousands of dollars in contingencies associated with almost every single one of them that are invisible to anyone who has not paid for it.

This is why thinking on a timeline is so important. There is a point where the horse and steer surpass the tractor and combine and no till seed drilled planting and acres of insect and non-soybean armageddon. What we might call old technology, is a more redemptive, tried and tested form of immortality, with recognition of limitation and need built in. No moment of anger or surprise when the shovel handle breaks off right at the neck. No matter how slow I chop, or weak my grip, or strength in back, or numb my feet and fingers become, I have the means to repair all of them, or an ability to self-repair is built in to them.

If you can’t see why economy loves gas powered and oil blooded technology replacing wood handled and everlasting iron tipped tools, I don’t have the time or space here to teach it.

It is clear. It is comparing 10W-40 to water. Without a combine, how many people would be needed to tend those hundred acres. Just what is this half a million dollar machine intended to replace, a bunch of time and energy and stress, because in that regard, it is very much hit or miss. But consistently, regularly, dependably, it replaces what used to be an entire community of employment, housing, and opportunity surrounding agriculture. A massive, ever-expanding, predominately cashless economy built on trade, interdependency on land management and food production, cheap simple machinery and lots and lots of animals and people pursuing common ends.

A true example of something that fulfills all the expectations of the word sacrifice is impossible if not thinking on a timeline. A lasting farmer, in charge of an operation that will foreseeably still be running in two, or three hundred years, supporting a family, and a community, and a nation of communities, is impossible without making sacrifices today for that eventual tomorrow.

For all the modern conveniences, the bells and whistles of high tech agriculture, the returns and prices and community interest in farming is lower now than it ever was back when our great grandparents were chasing mules and lugging buckets of water up from the creek bottom.

What’s different is the prioritization they placed on timelines. Our ancestors sacrificed comfort, ease, access, because what they were building toward was greater than anything they could imagine within their lifetimes.

Whereas in stark contradiction, today, we buy gadgets, tools, air conditioned cab tractors so that one farmer can comfortably do the work of hundreds, and pay thousands and go into debt to repair their great giant community substitute. And to think I hear awestruck and wonderment from farmers about how little people understand what they do, or seem to care at all about the source of their food. And I know why. Because whenever you talk to a farmer, the first thing they tell you about is their toys.

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