The Red Wheelbarrow
Cut me some slack on this one please: I can glaze it and toss in a couple of white chickens, but that orange will still destroy the image, and there goes your poem. (Sorry William Carlos, may you rest in peace.)
I first came across ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ in my early twenties when a classmate at Christchurch Teachers’ College based a lesson plan on it. It’s one of my favourite poems. The poet poses a great question: “What exactly depends upon this wheelbarrow?” I’ll leave you to your own head scratching on that one.
I do know that we depend on our orange wheelbarrow – I don’t need to paint it red, get some white hens and wait for the rain to puzzle out an answer to that one! Grounded in thirty years of using the thing as an indispensable piece of machinery for the homesteading way of life, your idea comes to life for me William. I totally get why you were so fond of telling people: “No ideas but in things.”
I bought a ‘contractor barrow’ from Timaru’s Mitre 10 hardware store. Three decades on and I see they’re still using the same design. Why mess around with good balance and control, a functional tray, and a simple and efficient lever, fulcrum and wheel principle? I can barrow, at a grunt, a 50kg load of barley and oats, or whatever, across Little Owl Gully and up the slope to the goat shed.
Our heirloom barrow with its wooden tray and steel wheel, which we put to real world use for four or five years back in the day, does, however, make me extra appreciative of a couple of innovations: solid steel construction and a fat pneumatic tyre!
Made to be used and abused – steadying the slosh of concrete porridge or carting rubble on building sites – we were confident the wheelbarrow could take anything we threw at it. I threw so many boulders in it once that it toppled sideways and slammed onto a big rock, putting quite a dint in its steel side.
But apart from that, wear and tear’s amounted to replacing the tyre and tube just the once. Grease up the wheel’s axle rod and positioning collars now and then and we’re off like a new one.
The other day I was an hour late for my first Long Black fix of the morning and my tunnel vision had Columbus Coffee cafe in its sights. June got in on my brain fade (she’s good at that!) and pointed out ten different models of wheelbarrow on a stand outside Ashburton Mega (sic) Mitre 10. As you know, I recently got myself worked up over the crazy swirl, in general, of in your face new product choices: Red Clover Tea. When we bought our wheelbarrow, there would have been a choice of light or heavy duty.
The poet gives us no choice – nothing else will do the job ever. Orange barrows and brown chickens are out of the question. Sure does concentrate the mind.
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully for this week. Next Monday I’ll show you how we go about rendering beef fat in the woodstove’s oven.
Thanks for your company. Bye for now.