|In the picture above, Carl is about halfway done on one side of the mound, working his way to the right.|
"If we had to garden in this stuff, I'd seriously think about quitting gardening," I grumbled as I hoisted yet another hefty clod to the trailer.
"Yeah, we've been spoiled all these years with our sand," Carl agreed.
We'd started out with two rakes and a pail, which soon turned into a wheelbarrow and within an hour upgraded to the 574 and our dump trailer.
Way down on the end of the ninety-something foot long mound is the tractor and trailer. At first, I was raking the clods out and carting them to the pail/wheelbarrow/trailer. On Sunday afternoon I got the bright idea to simply rake the bigger chunks to the bottom of the mound and deal with them later on.
"I wonder how the town grader would work on this job?" I asked. The lane was rutted up on the south end from all the dump truck traffic.
"You know, that's an idea," Carl said. "We haven't used the grader in a few years."
We decided to dump all the leftover clumps of clay into the low spot on the lane and then grade the surface flat again.
Sunday was gloriously warm and happily we'd had no rain. (I can't imagine working with this topsoil if it were wet.) But Sunday was also the first day of Daylight Savings Time; great, it was going to be dark an hour earlier.
We worked as fast as we could, reminiscing about Larry's funeral and his life as we raked.
"I can't get over how much work this is," Carl said. "My shoulders are sore."
"Yeah. Raking isn't a whole lot of fun," I agreed. "But you've been at it longer than I have."
By 5PM the sun was setting and we headed for the Back Eight and the ancient road grader.
Carl hooked the tractor up and I towed him through the trees, around the corner and up to the mound.
The nameplate reads: Russell Hiway Patrol Number 1 Factory No.(?) I couldn't make the factory number out, though a rubbing might work. (I was surprised to learn Russell was bought out by Caterpillar in 1928.) History of Russell Graders
This antique was left on my parent's farm when my grandfather was still alive. My dad always called it the 'town grader' because it technically belonged to the township or the crew who was hired to do the road construction. The road was built with sand from our farm pit when my father was a young child. Dad was born in 1913, and I'm sure this antique implement is at least as old; so the grader has been in our possession for a long, long time. Somehow, I don't think they want it back.
The blade is raised and lowered using the wheels which turn surprisingly easy. We can also raise and lower the entire grader by using the hydraulics on the tractor. (Yes, we cheat.) This machine probably would have been pulled by horses back in the day; I'm pretty sure there were a pair of front wheels at one time. There was also a wooden platform to rest the operator's feet on, too, but they have long since rotted away, before my time.
Carl got off the machine and swung the blade to the angle he needed for grading.
After he had adjusted everything he wanted, he took over driving back and forth, leveling off the lane.
We both love the old machine, but it was almost a goner back in the late 1990's. Before my father died, he'd been in the midst of tearing the grader apart in preparation of taking it in for recycling. Carl happened to talk to him that very day and managed to stop the destruction.
"Please don't get rid of the grader," he said. "We still need it around here."
"What do you need it for?" my father had gruffly asked, "It's worthless."
Thank goodness, somehow Carl managed to talk him out of dismantling it and actually ended up putting most of it back together instead.
With Carl driving, I was running the wheels for the blade. The ride is surprisingly smooth and I enjoyed being towed around in circles. For an antique that is possibly well over a hundred years old, it does a marvelous job.
Too soon, the sun was down below the horizon and we couldn't see very well. Mission accomplished: the lane was smooth.
Time to take the tractor back to the machine shed and call it a night.