Thursday, September 17, 2009

Form, Forge and Furrow

This is a humble object, and one I greatly admire, because it has form and function. To recognize it reveals me as the farm boy I am. Or once was.

Created by the ancient practice of forging and hammering iron, it was wrought as a tool in the service of an even more ancient practice - agriculture with domesticated ox, buffalo, horse, etc. Most of the time in America, it was mules. If you've plowed a mule, you might recognize it, too. But there probably aren't too many who'll read this who've marched down a furrow behind those noble, essential and cussed animals. (The "crown-less martyr," in one of my favorite phrases, "without pride of ancestry nor hope of posterity." I digress.)

Were you to find yourself in the situation of guiding a plow through soil, there would be an object between you and the hindquarters of the mule, called a single tree. It's a stout wooden bar to which the plow is hitched, then is connected at each end to the collar.

A century ago, some unknown blacksmith took it upon himself to make something special, this sinuous looping snake form, for his single tree. I salute you, unknown sir, because you were an artist, and I treasure this thing you made.

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