Incubators of possibilities

Published 10:03 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Farm shops. They are the equivalent of corporate board meeting rooms. This is where decisions are made to determine destinies for years to come. These meetings decide the lay of the land for hundreds of acres, whether cotton, corn or peanuts. They dictate the flow of funds involving thousands of dollars from one enterprise to another. All while lying on one’s back trying to get a rusty 9/16-inch bolt to come loose.

They are not clean. There is last year’s oil in the corner and this years’ soybeans against the wall. There are broken drill bits on the bench and used welding rods on the floor. The spiders use the same cobwebs every year, and the birds rent the same nest. There are worn out tires stacked in the rear, piles of old metal over to the side and wrenches laying everywhere. There’s that impact wrench that broke in 1995 that someone’s going to fix next week.

They are museums. Hanging up over there is a broken bit that mules used. Leaning up against the wall is the same cramming stick that someone’s forefather used to get that fencepost straight. Back there is the hoe that was used in the golden days of chopping peanuts.

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On the floor are cultivator bats that went on that old cultivator we quit using in 1973. And lying under the bench is that 200-pound tractor weight that went on the tractor we traded in the year Charles Redd ran the fertilizer place. We’re going to get it out from under there one of these days.

They are schools. Here a young boy’s imagination can run wild. He can find nuts and washers and wheels and bearings. He can figure out what this tool is used for and what that switch turns on. He can get dirty, and no one cares. He can put things together and tear things apart. He can saw and turn and drill and poke and nail. He can pretend he’s driving the biggest tractor in the whole world.

They are an inventor’s paradise. Here, spray booms are lengthened and planters modified. If it can be thought of, it can be tried. Homemade rigs that come right out of someone’s brain and transform metal and motors and wood and wire into some contraption that might change the world. 98 percent of the time they don’t work. But 2 percent of the time they do. And we’re shooting for that 2 percent.

Farm shops. They’re dotted across this land from Richmond to Rhode Island, from Norfolk to Nevada. Preservers of what has been and breeding grounds for the future. Incubators of possibilities.