Dangerous Yardwork

I think chain saws gain mythic proportions in any safety-conscious household. My dad grew up on a rural farm in the early 1900s, and statistically, a farm is about the most dangerous “natural” workplace there is.

I don’t think we ever owned a chain saw. I remember my dad “borrowing” one, maybe once, or maybe it was a friend or neighbor using it. In any case, I have a stronger memory of Dad’s countless horror stories than I do of actually seeing the saw in use.

Anyway, it seemed fitting to buy Biscuit her very own chain saw for Mother’s Day several years back. An intentionally Amazonian gift. In practice, we rarely use it, but it’s there.

My Dad didn’t have a chainsaw, but he did do pesticides.

Dad planted 3 or 4 peach trees near the garden in northern Virginia, and every season we’d go out and spray them.

I was fascinated by the sprayer. It was a Hudson Sprayer, built in Hastings, Minnesota, of all places. I remember using it to do pretend fire fighting with friends – in reality, we were tending a pile of burning brush.

My childhood definition of paranoia comes from Dad’s approach to pesticides. He kept the powders on a special shelf. He had his own, dedicated glass measuring cup, a set of measuring spoons, and a funnel. Those were never used with anything else, not with film processing, and especially not with food.

Keep in mind that Dad tried hard to never waste anything or spend money unnecessarily. Up until the end of the ’60s we went through Virginia summers without air conditioning. Our TV was black and white. We generally only had one each of everything we needed, no more and no less. We didn’t acquire a second TV until my grandmother moved in. That TV saw a lot of use, even though we had to whack the speaker to get the sound to work.

So Dad took pesticides seriously enough to buy separate mixing tools. When the actual mixing took place, there was a lot of handwashing before and after. We never played or goofed around with the pesticides.

I thought I knew a lot about conservation and pollution and such as a kid. It was a sort of hobby of mine. But I hadn’t read Silent Spring (I’d heard of it) and I didn’t really appreciate just how toxic those pesticides could be.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate Dad’s paranoia about pesticides. At this point I’m a bit surprised that he used them at all, given the dangers he clearly recognized.

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