Near as I can tell we last saw that long-point gardening spade in the summer of 2008, and in time I forgot about it. I think it was last used to plant an apple sapling on a hillside in a little meadow that got mowed no more than once a year. In those days our only mower was a badly beat-up off-brand rotary mower we pulled behind an underpowered tractor. It had hit so many rocks, stumps and roots over the years that it was more nicks than blade, but it would knock down the grass if you mowed slowly enough. We had it set a little high to avoid all those Patrick County rocks, which appear to mate each winter and push up a new generation of rocks each spring.
Sometime last fall when we were putting the gardens to bed for the year, I mowed up a wire mesh cylinder that I think my father-in-law had put around the sapling, only to have it all fall over in that horrendous winter of '09-'10 when snow and ice and cold did so much damage to trees and shrubs and blueberry bushes. Even the weeds and the vines took a long time to recover, and I didn't get around to mowing that field again until late 2011. The ruckus that wire mess made when the mower picked it up was pretty much like the sound the transmission of a 1952 Nash Rambler makes when it shreds itself into small pieces after a teenager spends too much time trying to pop a wheelie. But that's another story.
So with the remnants of that wire cleared out of the way, it didn't occur to me there might be something else down in the grass. If it had, I wouldn't have used the new twin-bladed finish mower on that part of the field. It was a lovely day, warm with just a bit of breeze, and the mower was cutting a fine six-foot swatch of neat grass, leaving in its wake a smooth stream of precisely cut clippings. I was composing letters in that part of the brain that lets you think of interesting things while you are doing something else, and dreaming of sailing, moving along in a sea of grass, close-hauled at about three knots, and not even thinking of fetching up on a shoal.
Wellsir, there's nothing to wake you up from a daydream like mowing up a shovel someone left in a field a long time ago. I was just about to tack the rig on the complementary course back toward the springhouse when the rigging shook and the sounds WHAMMO! BLAMMO! KATHUNK!, followed by a helicoptering whop-whop as part of an ash-handled spade went helicoptering out over the countryside, woke me up.
The business end of the spade was unharmed and intact, but most of the wooden handle was over by a blue spruce. Bits of the plastic handle itself were in various places. I raised the mower and found a couple of nicks but nothing broken on the mower itself. It reminded me of other things I had mown up over the years -- how a plastic milk jug will sound like the towers of Jericho falling, and how a child's tennis racket getting chewed up by a Toro will rattle your nerves. And one time down at the coast I picked up a crab pot right in front of Sharkey's bar -- and wound up sliding sideways into the dock with only, oh, about 500 people watching from the nearby deck. That pot was wrapped tighly around the propeller of my outboard motor, and it took hours just to snip it free. Had about 15 dings in a fairly new stainless steel prop, too. Once was enough, I thought. Wrongly.
It's a good caution, I guess, to remember that still waters and still grasses can harbor all sorts of troublesome things -- and if you aren't expecting trouble, it will come to you mighty quick. Noisy, too.
I wonder if I can equip this tractor with a depth sounder and maybe a metal detector, too?