Heritage is sometimes found absent in young people. New inventions, new technologies, new schools of thought are continuously coming forth and shaping the world around us. While all learn to live with the change or perish, throughout history it has near always been youth who clamor for the acceptance of anything which strays from what is considered the norm. However sometimes new isn’t necessarily better.
Recently I was gifted a few ‘old relics’ by my father. Among them was an old garden tiller. While the farthest thing from pretty, modern, or easy to handle it is a perfect example of heritage. It’s at least 60 years old, has been in the hands of three generations of our family (used by two now), and has done more work than any tiller it’s size should ever do. Her workings are simple. Her finish is crude. She is as loud and obnoxious as I am. And she always gets the job done.
My father found this old girl on her side in the woods outside Hawk Point Missouri on my grandmother’s land. He guessed it had been there for at least 20 years before he found it. The oil had drained out from lying on its side but the motor turned over. A little new oil, gasoline and ether and she fired right up like the day she was born. Since then he has owned this old girl for 25 years or so and she has been used annually and put through the paces. She’s not had an oil change since that initial fill up. He never greased it, never did a thing…..yet every time we needed work she started up with a bit of gasoline and a pull or two.
Originally manufactured by McDonough Power (we now know them as Snapper), she’s had a 137cc Briggs & Stratton single cylinder on her since dad found her. According to what’s left of the pull-cover the engine was rated at 3 hp. It has been a great little engine and has always been plenty but two or three summers ago she finally had to retire after the recoil-spring gave out. Since then she has sat in a yard in Missouri until dad decided to let me have it.
Initially wanting to keep it as I knew it, I tried rewinding the recoil-spring to no avail. After finding out she wasn’t getting fire even when spun by a drill I decided to give the old girl a heart transplant.
After looking around this was the choice I settled on: A Kohler SH265. At 196cc it is a lot larger than the old Briggs. Even more impressive is the power- 6.5 hp(more than double the old motor’s rating). Surprisingly the mount-points were the same and the installation was effortless. In the space of an hour we had the old girl up and running with a new power-plant.
It might seem a little silly, being so attached to an old hunk of rusty iron. It honestly would have been less work to simply go buy a new tiller. After all modern technology has come a long way with rear-tine counter-rotating tillers and such, but there is something to be said about older tools like this or other things in general. They aren’t fancy, they just work. They don’t have warning labels, they’ll chew you up and spit you out if you’re stupid. They can be dreadfully more laborious to use than their modern counterparts but still……they just work. These machines were born in a time when you needed to be able to count on something to work as long as possible. If it broke you needed to be able to fix it, people couldn’t afford to take everything back to the store.
This is what heritage is about: holding onto old ways not for fear of new but for the simple fact that what we had and what we did back then was in a lot of cases good enough. Sure it may have been a bit more work but we were given strong legs and a back to bear it. No soul ever slept better than after a long day of good honest work.
Heritage…..its not just a marketing term. It is about remembering and honoring the people who used these things to get by, to build the foundations which have put us where we are. It is about using what we have until it is no longer an option and being frugal, enjoying the pleasantries and shouldering the pain for others like our mothers and fathers did for us. Its keeping tradition so we don’t forget and grow spoiled or soft.
Most of all it’s honoring the history behind all things….animate, inanimate. Plant, animal, or human. At least that’s how I see it. What do you think?