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There I was together with an old farmer who was going to teach me the art of the scythe. He was a countryman, Slovak to the roots, forged in socialism and hardened in capitalism. Despite his advanced age, evident in his wrinkled face, he exuded an enviable vitality and strength.

The site consisted of a modest wood construction, still to be finished, which, in different compartments, served as a living quarter and at the same time as a stable. Located a few minutes away from the Danube riverbed, in a wide plain, adjacent to the farmhouse were some meadows, of considerable size, which were assigned to the farmer for a livestock use.

A humble flock of sheep, a family of horses, a few cows, ducks, chickens, chicks, geese, turkeys, cats and a guard dog, Mia. Most of them were in the immediate vicinity of the barn, an untamed lap of life, in which, however, there was a certain harmony and tranquility. On his little farm he was a free man. In the July heat, unusual in those latitudes, he decided that the best clothing was precisely the absence of it, except for underpants, socks, and flip-flops. In this way, before my presence, he would undertake the diligent tasks required by the good work of a farmer. Feed the creatures, fill the water troughs, release the horses to joyfully run freely, and... have a good drink of vodka.

After his solidarity routine tasks, the time finally arrived: me, an urbanite, was about to be instructed on the serious business. He had bought a brand-new traditional Austrian blade and handle, as his own scythe had broken after ages of usage. He showed me how to sharpen the tool’s blade, using an anvil assembled in a wooden table and a hammer so it could patiently and carefully flatten every inch of the long blade’s edge. It was a laborious job that took me more than what I initially expected, almost one hour.

After the farmer’s supervision and approval, the blade’s edge was flattened good enough to be refined with a sharpening whetstone, and, finally, ready to be assembled in the long wooden handle, with a set of screws that would tighten it all together. And just by this, we got our own traditional Austrian scythe. Later, the farmer took it and headed for a fresh grassy pasture. With a powerful dry movement, in the blink of an eye, a bundle of grass was swept away, leaving the emptiness on the ground. He would energetically show me the technique, with an apparent easiness, or even effortless, on his movement. Thus, after repeated demonstrations, I came to understand, first, how to grasp the tool and, second, how to properly replicate the movement. It certainly needed experience.

Since the ideal usage of the scythe requires the morning dew, I spent the night there in my pitched tent. I woke up next day early after the dawn, around 5. The farmer was also already awake, so I called him. He would show me a green pasture behind to peacefully practice as much as I needed. And so, I did. 

Text a foto: Pol

Pol je dobrovoľník programu Európsky zbor solidarity na projekte v Štátnej ochrane prírody. Projekt bol podporený z programu EÚ Európsky zbor solidarity.

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