Friday, July 2, 2010

Pitchfork


WOODEN PITCHFORK

` There it was a drawing of a three tine wooden pitchfork and it appears to be made out of one piece of wood. Seeing that makes me ponder on the tools our forefathers had to work with. Going to heritage, pioneer or threshing days gives some insight how tools like a wooden pitchfork would be used. Give one to sonny and he would probably whine it was too small and the job would not be finished till next year. It was what our forefathers had and they made the best with what they had.
To make a pitchfork out of a single piece of wood would take some creativity and thought. When settling in new country there seldom was a store there and the pioneer had to be resourceful. Making tools from wood takes few tools; a saw, draw knife and a gouge of sorts. Out of the log comes a pitchfork.
Here in the prairie I doubt there were many wooden forks but the hay still had to be hauled in and put in the haystack or barn and to watch the old times at threshing day work with their forks is like watching choreography of harvesting.
The hay or feed would be cut with a scythe or mower, and then raked into windrows, tied off by hand or a binder, two guys following behind with pitchforks, scooping up the bundles and setting them together to start a shock and then add more bundles till it was built. Smooth effortless motions as the bundles were picked up by the guys with pitchforks and on down the field they would go building shocks to set and dry.
Later a rick would come by and the shocks were loaded on to the rick to be taken to the barnyard, either thrashed or stacked for cattle feed depending on the crop. With a flip of the wrist the bundle would float up on the rick, one guy on each side building his stack. The Bundles would go floating high up in the air to settle in a tight load, sometimes as much as 10 feet high.
Working loose hay is another rhythm stacking and cross stacking to keep the hay on the rick so it will be there when they get to the barn. Loading into the hay loft, a block and tackle rig would hoist the loads into the loft. Pitching the hay into the carrier, then getting it stacked in the loft so it would come out easy for feeding in the barn. A hay dance for the coordination these guys would have working their pitchforks through the hay and moving it from place to another for storage.
Watching these guys work was watching a craft that is disappearing. Most of them today are in their late 80’s and 90’s. I thought I had it rough handling bales until I watched these gentlemen work a field of cane, horse drawn binder, and hand formed shocks and hand loaded, the ease with which they did it.
Someplace in the country there is a kid with a little bit of spunk that could make one. Setting the curve and spacing of the fork and how the handle comes back would be tricky. The first few times I used a pitchfork I almost threw it away. I had my forks tilted wrong and I went to pitch the hay and everything went flying. Walk into the barn today with a wooden pitchfork would probably produce a more than a few guffaws, but if it works……who gets the last laugh.
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