I like to see a farmer well provided with tools, that he need not be subject to the very troublesome inconvenience of borrowing. Some, however, prefer to carry on their work by means of their neighbor’s implements, and, from frequent use of the same, they seem to think, that they derive a positive right to them. You may bring home a new axe, for instance, all ground and sharp for business, and, in half an hour, if you wish for it, you are pretty sure to find it at the woodpile of your borrowing neighbor. Is not this most provoking?
A farmer, as well as a mechanic, should have tools of his own. How would it answer for a carpenter to depend upon a brother artificer for his broad-axe, his mallet, his hammer, and hand-saw? For myself, I have always endeavored to keep on hand, and ready for use, every sort of farming utensils, that I think I may need, in my, rather small way, perhaps, of husbandry; and it may be, that what has been remarked about it is true, viz: that, for this very reason, my neighbors are but too negligent in this matter, calculating that whenever they want a tool, they know where to find one.
I have been called a ‘good-natured man, and willing to oblige,’ but, from this time henceforth, I am determined to set up my Ebenezer in the business, and show them, that I am not without grit and resolution. I will not be pestered, as I have been for a series of years, with such continual annoyance. I would be liberally disposed towards my neighbors; I would be in season and out of season in my good offices; but with respect to farming tools, there is no more lack of them for the agriculturist, than there is of lace, ribands, and trinkets for a ball room.
Every sort and kind of tool is offered for sale at the Agricultural stores, and a man is not obliged now, as once, to botch up an old, worn-out tool, because there are no more to be purchased. The best accommodation on this behalf may now be found on the right, and on the left, so that borrowing is out of the question. I say to the farmer who expects to carry on his business by depending on his neighbors for tools,—’avaunt! nor presume to meddle with my scythe, my rake, my flail, my brake, my axe, my hoe, my plough, my crow;’ ay, and again I say, hands off from my beetle and wedges.
Beetle and wedges! Apropos.—These are the worst of all implements for lending, and, when once from home, the owner is sure to see his beetle returned, (if it even be returned,) cracked, ringless and useless. By the way, I have said above, that every sort and kind of farming tool is offered for sale at the agricultural stores; but it is not so altogether.
Not long since, I made inquiry at the several establishments in the city for a beetle, when, behold, I was told that no such thing was there, or ever was. ‘Call at the wooden-ware shops,’ said they, ‘and you will be accommodated.’ I replied that a beetle was a farmer’s utensil, and why not keep them? ‘No,’ was the answer, ‘a beetle belongs to the line of brooms, baskets, mops, and bread-trays.’ ‘Whew!’ said I, and, trudging away to one of the washtub merchants, made inquiry for the article. They, indeed, showed me something, called a beetle; but, ‘O, tempora, O, mores!’—a miserable, flimsy affair! What a wretched falling off, in the beetle line, from those noble thumpers in the days of our grandfathers!
Abraham Anthracite stood hard by and remarked, ‘what need of such tools now-a-days, when wood-fires have grown out of fashion, and coal is all the go?’ But I soon satisfied Abraham, that he knew not half the purposes of beetle and wedges upon a farm. Farmers do without them? ”Tis an absurdity.’
I may be thought more nice than wise, when I say, ‘give me a finished beetle for my use. I want none of your ill-shaped smashers, as long as a horse’s head. I would have a smooth and stout handle also, a little biggest at the upper end, that it need not slip out of my hands, when I give the blow. The rings, to be sure, need not be polished but they should be of proper width, circumference, and thickness, and of tough iron. I want no shamming in the making of my farming tools.’
I turned to leave the place, when Abraham again accosted me, saying, ‘I tell you what, neighbor, come to think on’t, if you should purchase a good beetle, I may want to borrow it in preparing some fencing stuff for a little lot I have in your vicinity.’ ‘Borrow! you borrow, Abraham?’ said I, and hastily departed, leaving him to ponder on where and how he might supply himself with beetle and wedges.
Again, another word or two on the subject of borrowing. You may say, Mr. Reader, that ‘farmers ought to be obliging to each other, and, that without borrowing and lending, more or less, it will be difficult for a neighborhood to prosecute their business of agriculture, as oftentimes, it happens, that accidents occur;—tools may be suddenly broken and destroyed, without a chance of immediate reparation, &c. Granted. It is the duty of all to lend their aid in such cases, and when I refuse to assist my neighbor in such an emergency, then mark me for a disobliging, cross-grained fellow.
But, sir, it is the negligent, habitual borrower, the one who cares not a fig for your tool, after he has done with it, and who never will own one, so long as he can borrow, against whom I lay my charge. Neither do they confine it to tool-borrowing altogether; I can hardly get my newspaper into my hands from the Post Office, before I am assailed by some little urchin with—’daddy wants the print,’ as much as to say, that we take it in partnership!— But, in particular, with borrowing farmers I have no patience. No one can work without tools, and if a man owns land, and pretends to farm it, let him supply himself, to prevent hard words and wry looks. I set my face against these habitual borrowers of farming tools. Let them not think of being accommodated from my tool-house. Touch not;—meddle not with mine, from my garden dibble to my beetle and wedges.
The New Genesee Farmer 1840
(reprinted from The Yankee Farmer)
– Jeff Burks