The scythe was invented in about 500 BC and first appeared in Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries. It was used mostly for mowing hay, and replaced the sickle for reaping crops by the 16th century as it was more efficient. As a farming tool, it remained in use for many years, even after the introduction of mowing machines, because a side-mounted mower, whether horse or tractor drawn, could not mow in front of itself and scythes were still needed to open up a meadow by clearing the first swathe to give the mechanical mower room to start. The scythe, mainly a farming tool, has often been used as a weapon by those who couldn't afford or didn't have access to more expensive weapons such as pikes, swords, or later, guns. Scythes were carried by angry mobs or gangs of peasants.

The Meadow Ballet.

Say what you like about him but my ‘oul man could handle a scythe.

Swing it with the easy grace of a matador in a bullring in Barcelona.

Could turn and pivot, sure of foot, like a lithe ballerina on the stage

at the Bolshoi. The grass, defeated with surgical precision, fell in

complete surrender prostrate beneath him, each cut a perfect arc

of knowing the way. He would spit on his palms, grasp the handles

surely, but lightly.

Glints of sunlight would flash like mirrored signals with each slice.

The steel, sharp as obsidian, mowed with near silent swish.

Wielded like a gladius before the barbaric grasses, he made the

meadowlark and linnet flee in frightful flight before him, feathers

ruffled. The field-mice scurried helter-skelter, squealing for mercy.

And always at full stretch, that graceful swing, that perfect step,

the meadow ballet. The stone, nestled in the back pocket,

waited it’s turn.

He would pause, straighten his back and stand the scythe on end,

dulled blade pointed at the earth. Would wipe the sweat from his

brow with the back of his hand, slide the stone along its length

and up the other side. Hone with an angle of perfect degree,

steady, sure. The reaper’s shadow, long and black, lay

outstretched on the stubble behind him. Would drink deeply from

the can of milk, and then, the second act.

From: The Journey: A Nomad Reflects.

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Tags: Farming, History, Implements, Scythes, World


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