Tool Geek and Garden Buddy

I have never understood the fascination some women have for shopping for shoes, collecting shoes, wearing shoes. Give me tools. I drool for tools.

I can’t remember the first time I ever held or used a pulaski, but it had to be in the 1970s, when I was a teenaged enrollee in the Youth Conservation Corps. One of our jobs was trail work, and nothing beats a pulaski for digging out rocks, chopping roots, and pioneering new trail tread. In the years since, I have carried pulaskis hundreds of miles, dug fireline, chopped trees, and created drainage dips. When I used to get laid off in the fall, I would wake up with numb fingers for a couple of months because my hands were gripping a phantom pulaski.

This tool was invented by Ed Pulaski, a Forest Service ranger from Wallace, Idaho. In 1910, he led crews during the big fire that burned through western Montana and north Idaho (see my post about Timothy Egan’s book The Big Burn). At that time, shovels, axes, and crosscut saws were the firefighting tools of choice. Ed Pulaski thought about it, and forged a new tool. I am sure he didn’t name it after himself, but somehow the name stuck.

It digs and chops, and in a pinch can pound a wedge into a saw kerf. It’s tempting to use it to pry, but that’s a good way to break the handle. A lot of younger forestry technicians don’t have much use for a pulaski–there are other tools that are easier to use, and don’t require as much skill. But sometimes the pulaski is the right tool for the job.

Back in another life, I gained a pulaski through marriage, and realized its potential as a garden tool. It did not move to this garden with me, and I have been pulaski-less for five years. A few weeks ago, I sent for a new one. It’s made by Snow and Nealley, forged in Bangor, Maine. The proportions are little different from the government ones and it’s a little lighter. My hands are overjoyed to hold it and wield it in the garden. I am digging up sod and sculpting dirt. I am so happy. Now I can dig out a stump!

A couple hours of working in the yard, listening to white-crowned sparrows…it’s T-shirt weather, even in the shade. My pal Henry keeps me company out there.

2 thoughts on “Tool Geek and Garden Buddy

  1. I bought one too about 15 year in a second hand store. It was stamped UFSF. It is too nice to use It has joined my collectable collection of axes from the past.

  2. I don’t understand ‘ordinary’ …typical?… women, period. Never could mingle comfortably with them… and shopping for shopping’s sake, I sneer at. I’m not a ‘tool geek’ either. So… what am I ?! lolol

    Snow and Nealley is an old company that has done Maine proud.
    Now that you’ve educated me to this tool and Darrell has mentiond “2nd hand”… it’s JUST NOW closed for the winter, but there is this FABULOUS old shop I frequent, brim full of furniture, old dishes, old TOOLS… it’ll re-open Memorial weekend! I got the best spade in the world there, 3 years ago.

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