Sunday, October 01, 2017

notes on the wheelbarrow


In my family, since time immemorial – which I date back to my fourth year, when I became vaguely conscious of the world – there was always a wheelbarrow. This was because, back then, my dad was a carpenter, or rather housebuilder – he not only did the framing but poured the foundation and did the wiring and put on the roof, etc. – and a wheelbarrow was an essential tool of the trade. Even when he stopped being a carpenter, he kept a wheelbarrow handy for household tasks, or for planting, etc. This meant that a wheelbarrow was always propped up somewhere around the house – in the garage, in a storage hut or greenhouse, under the porch.
There were different wheelbarrows, but the one I remember best was painted a deep blue. It had a pleasing number of dints in the metal part of it. I have nice memories of Dad mixing concrete in this wheelbarrow. The bags would be compact, and yellow, with a string along the top that you could tug to open it. But mostly what you did was plop the bag in the wheelbarrow, and, using a sharp pointed shovel, rip open the belly of the bag. The metal of the shovel would make a nice crunching sound going through the paper and into the dry concrete mix, and a little gray cloud would float up. Then  you’d pull away the sacking and you’d put another bag in, and another, until you had enough, at which point you’d take a hose and add water. Stirring the mixture into concrete was done with the shovel too. As the consistency of the thing approached what you wanted, you would be able to cut pancakes of the concrete from the whole mix and flapjack them one on the other. Finally the mix would be right, and you’d unsteadily lift up on the handles and trot the wheelbarrow to where it was needed.
So I do understand, to an extent, what depends on a wheelbarrow, as per WCW:

so much depends 

a red wheel 

glazed with rain 

beside the white 

For instance, I know that Dad wouldn’t allow the wheelbarrow to just stand out there in the rain, nor would anyone who had to use wheelbarrows daily. That is because the rain would rust the metal of it, and probably be bad for the wooden handles as well. At the very least, you’d put sheeting over the wheelbarrow.

On the other hand, I’m no carpenter. I’d be as apt as any drunken Jersey chicken farmer to leave the wheelbarrow out in the rain. It is one of my major sins, which is not counted in the Bible, a book too much concerned with idols and not with objects – this neglectful attitude towards the thins of the world, this existential sloppiness.  I’m just the kind of guy who’d let his chickens shit in the wheelbarrow as it rusts. That’s no good. 

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