Clearing the clutter


With the help of my wife, I have spent the past four days giving the shop/machinery barn a long, overdue cleaning and a bit of reorganization. We filled a 20-cubic yard dumpster to the brim with things that I shouldn’t be holding onto (#hoarding). 

Judy rarely goes to the machinery shed, so she was shocked at the disarray. As she was making her way through the maze of old wire, rusty buckets and dilapidated cardboard boxes, with an armload of more refuse, I heard her scream out in pain as she tripped over an immovable object. Her shin had discovered my father’s old, 120-pound blacksmith anvil.

“What is this?” she mumbled in despair as she vigorously rubbed her aching leg.

I began a much longer-than-intended discourse about my dad’s abilities as a primitive ironworker. I told her of my job as the boy who cranked the bellows of the blacksmith forge, which provided the air-fuel, directed through a metal vent, to the burning coal that would enable my dad to heat the metal to a red-hot, workable temperature.

When my dad was still farming, with a team of horses or mules, he could shape and fit horseshoes to a custom fit for the animals. Those skills allowed him to do so many things with metal that are no longer needed in the modern world of arc welders and plasma cutters. I continued to educate my wife about the role of the anvil by explaining that the round hole in the anvil permitted Dad to heat a piece of metal and punch a hole in it long before electric drills would do the same thing. The square hole was where one would place a hardy tool (an upside-down, chisel-type tool) that enabled the user to cut hot metal long before the oxy-acetylene torch was commonplace. 

I explained how my father would use this hardy tool to cut pieces out of a discarded leaf spring (a long, slender strip of hardened steel) from an old truck or wagon and attach that piece to an existing moldboard plow, thereby giving it a new plow point (about the only thing that ever wears out on a plow). That was an annual chore before we would begin plowing each spring. After the new point was attached, Dad would heat up the new unit to a hot, cherry-red and literally beat the blunt piece of metal with a hammer on the anvil until it was sharp enough to cut through the soil of that creek-bottom farm. I can still smell the aroma of that burning coal and hear the rhythmic tempo of a hammer on anvil.

With furrowed brows and clenched teeth, Judy interrupted, pausing with staccato-like precision between each word, “When I said, ‘What is this,’ I meant, ‘What is this doing here?’”

Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. Jerry’s daily exploits on the farm are now viewable on YouTube at “lifeissimple678”.To contact Jerry, go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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