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The Last Windrow: Don't mess with a farmer's pump shed

Every small 1950s farm had one. Some called them the "machine shed;" some called them "the pump shed;" some called them the "shop." They were icons on a small farm and held the odds and ends of an operating farm.

You might find the leftovers from an overhauled tractor or the pipes left over from a new well or spare wire left over from a fence project. If you couldn't find what you needed in the tractor's tool box, you might head for one of these small buildings and usually you could cobble something together from inside to get you back on the job.

We had such a shed that acted as a garage on our small farm. There was a ancient tool bench that had more holes drilled in it than a sponge. On it sat a huge vise that held about anything you could clamp between its jaws. Under the bench were miscellaneous bolts, drill bits, broken sledge hammer handles, bent shovels, and once I even found a center barrel of my great-granddad's clarinet. I always wondered how that piece of a musical instrument got there. It remains a mystery.

One did not try to move things around in those buildings. The farmer who lived on the place seemed to know every piece of "merchandise" that was held inside the walls. They could instantly go to the place in the heap and pick out what they needed for any particular job they were doing. Trying to organize such a place was dangerous. Farmers didn't like change.

This time of year many of our urban relatives venture back to their farm country homeland. They seek to relive the times in their youth when they visited a relative's farm and helped with the chores and duties required on a farm. They seemed to relish re-discovering their past and were only too happy to lend a hand.

My uncle had such relatives who made sojourns to his farm during the summer months on numerous years. My uncle had what he called a "pump shed." This is where he kept his treasures and almost everything he used in everyday jobs he had around the farm. I stumbled into this museum from time to time in search of a shovel or a wrench or a pry bar. Usually it was a task to find anything. But, after digging through this mass of metal, I usually came out with the tool I needed.

The visitor to my uncle's farm one summer took it upon himself to reorganize this building. My uncle never really asked for this help, but not to ruffle any feathers, he let his relative friend have his head and didn't say anything when it was announced that this project was in process.

The building ended up being a sterling example of organization. Each shovel handle was color coded for its use and hung neatly on the wall. Each wrench was similarly coded so you could tell what it was and what size of nut it would fit. The bolts, screws and washers were all sorted into jars and stacked neatly just under the window of the shed.

The total picture showed total organization. It was a work of art in the visitor's eyes.

Shortly after my uncle's relative left for his home back in city I paid a visit to my uncle's farm. I was stunned by the total reorganization in my uncle's pump shed. I had never seen every tool displayed so that I could find it. It was a miracle!

My uncle was striding across the farmyard when I caught him and told him that I was very impressed with this new, organized shed. I complimented the recent visitor's efforts.

My uncle paused for a moment and then said, "I can't find a blamed thing in that shed anymore! I wish he had just left it the way it was."

Within about three weeks the shed did return to my uncle's "normal." Color-coded shovels and wrenches lay strewn across the floor and work bench. There was an added asset to the building.

On the floor there were two gunny sacks that rattled. Seems my uncle and his friend had been out catching rattlesnakes to sell to the local vet. I was glad my uncle's visitor had left the week prior. It could be tough to color code rattlesnakes.

See you next time. Okay?