Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wheelbarrows I Have Known and Loved

One of the first things I did when I bought my farmhouse in Ansel back in 1990 was buy a wheelbarrow. It was my first of private ownership. No husband came with it. I found it in town at the hardware store. The wheelbarrow. I was as excited as a newly-wed, bringing it home, its deep orange body ripe with possibility. I was so excited I even read the instructions for putting it together. That may sound easy but the reading of instructions strikes terror into the heart of me. I was so in love I set my fears aside, sat down on the grass, and put it together step-by-happy-step. You would have thought I'd invented it. Unfortunately, I do not have any photos of that first love. I will tell you about that sweet thing above later in the story.

We spent many happy and prosperous years together hauling stuff around, like leaves and rocks and dead branches that had blown off in a storm the night before. Even Jake, our Siberian Husky, who met an untimely death (is there another kind?) was carried to his final resting spot with the help of the orange wheelbarrow.

It came along with me when I moved to town about ten years later, its daily use diminishing with town life. But, I liked to look at it from time to time, even talk to it as it sat in the garage taking its rest for awhile. When I moved to Santa Fe in the fall of 2001 it ended up at an ex-husband's house hauling wood and other manly stuff.

While living in Santa Fe I got to pining for it, thinking it might be time to find a replacement. I didn't know if I had a use for it but I knew it was time. I'd think of something. I  like to send out my requests to the Big U and see what it arranges for me so I turned it over. The following day, as I headed down the road to my house, there at the end of a neighbor's driveway was an orange wheelbarrow with a sign on it that said, "Free."  I was almost dumbstruck. I know. Hard to imagine. It was an older model. It had some miles on it, was slightly more shallow, shall we say, but it was mine. I couldn't get my car in my driveway fast enough. I hurried back down to the neighbors and wheeled it home. I was the happiest girl in the whole northern hemisphere.

When I decided to move back to Minnesota several years later, it found a home with another neighbor just up the road. I, too, put it at the end of the driveway with a sign that said, "Free." The neighbor's young grandson who came with to help load it into the back of her pickup truck was grinning from ear to ear. He had big plans for the orange wheelbarrow.

This is Henry (stay tuned)
Several weeks ago a fellow blogger posted a photo of her wheelbarrow. It was blue. It was a thing of beauty. And  I coveted it. For the life of me I cannot recall who owns this. Cheryl?  Nancy?  Please let me know. Not that I'm going to come looking for it or anything. I've since gotten beyond it, but that's only because I now own two wheelbarrows that came with the place I bought. They are both orange and have some miles on them. The slightly younger one, Henry, has been my constant companion this summer. He's stood the test of time and feels comfortable. I'll bet we even listen to the same music. The other one, Mr. Chalmers, I found lying in the grass next to the shed. He's somewhat older. Alas and alack, he was last used to haul cement and his wheel has seen better days. I shan't be able to employ him any time soon., but I know he's here and that's all that matters.

I'd like to honor his many years of service to this lovely place I now call home. He appears a little rough around the edges but his gentility still comes through even in his declining years. Here is my visual homage to him, which I've titled, "The Ballad of Mr. Chalmers."

To borrow from William Carlos Williams:

So much depends

the orange wheel
barrow ...

The photographs are mine.


  1. Oh, Teresa, this is a beautiful post! Our wheelbarrow is just an eyesore leaning against the side of our house. But yours are things of beauty, loaded up with memory.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to that wheelbarrow. My neighbour willed his prized aluminum wheelbarrow to me. He sensed I would love it as much as he did.

  3. I don't have a wheelbarrow but there are times when it would be handy to have one. Somehow I expected to see Mr. Chalmers end up as a planter! Lovely tribute.

  4. Teresa, what a sweet and fantastic story about a wheelbarrow, I was almost in tears when you had to say goodbye to the first ones and now you've got one named Henry and another named mr. Chalmers. It's both funny and sad, for when to you have to say good-by to them? I'm worried for these two sweet wheelbarrows. The next time I see a wheelbarrow on my way I'll give him a friendly bow!
    Grethe ´)

  5. What a fun story...In the future, I'll look at wheelbarrows in a new light. I have a wagon I drag around. I must admit, I love it. I haul flowers, dirt, rocks and grandchildren!

  6. Linda, thanks for your sweet response. I hope all is well for you and your eyes, post-surgery.

    Paul, How cool that is, to be willed a wheelbarrow. Isn't it grand, to have good neighbors?

    Nancy, You must get one. They are so handy and have such character. It's my understanding that Mr. Chalmers doesn't want to be a planter. He likes it out by the shed. I did turn him around, so he can face out and be a bit closer to the action.

    Grethe, I love your response. I promise I will keep my wheelbarrows happy and feeling good about Life. I can't imagine leaving here...

    Lynne, Look at your wagon in a whole new light! Ask what it's name is... :)

  7. gorgeous photos! so animated.
    so i see you are also a "wanderer" like me --moving, seeking, finding, loving all that you encounter on your journey from here to there. kittie said we were soulfriends.

  8. So good to hear from you. Thank you for the reminder of your other, very inspirational, blog. Yes, a wanderer. Life is a constant adventure, a beautiful journey of creating/discovering. I think Kittie is right. :)

  9. I think we must be kindred spirits. I have never heard any one feel like I do about my wheel barrel. It is my most coveted garden tool. How wonderful to read your tribute. You've just made a follower for life. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Maggie, Welcome! So glad you stopped by and I've found someone who loves their wheelbarrow, too! I look forward to visiting your blog and getting to know each other better through our stories. Ain't we got fun?

  11. I've had several old wheelbarrows I loved. None have come with me, one purly rusty was left full of flowers at a previous house and a blue unusual shaped one at the last house was sold with the plants I planted in it in a garage sale. I have a deep modern plastic one now, but it doesn't seem to have the charm of the ones you have shown so poetically here.

  12. Such a nice tribute to the wheelbarrow. It makes you wonder what we would do without our garden tools ~ be back in the stone age I think! :)

    Excellent photos too. Hope you have a terrific week Teresa!
    xo Catherine

  13. Good Morning, Linda! We both were up in the night, or the very wee hours of the morning. I thought of you, there in FL., working with clay, making your spirit jars. Yes, I think metal is a must. You just have to remember to lay them on their sides so they don't fill with rain and start to rust.

  14. Catherine, So glad to have a new friend, here in our blogging community. Yes, there's something about the certainty of garden tools; their contribution to our lives is quite wonderful. I hope you have a great week, also.

  15. Very sweet post. Loved reading about memories of your first and subsequent wheel barrows. They sure make gardening easier, don't they? I also become enamored with certain inanimate objects and end up naming them. My first SLR camera was called Mabel - my most recent camera I've named Ruby. I also remember riding around in a friend's car as a teenager that he had named Ruby. Ruby had an electrical short and sometimes driving around the levee at night, the headlights would go off unexpectedly. He'd pat the dashboard, trying to coax Ruby's lights back on. Sometimes she listened and sometimes not.

  16. I'm so glad we share a love of inanimate objects. What does that say about us, Gail? Ha! Driving around the levee, how southern is that... Love it.