Rusty old farm equipment suddenly spouts poetry.
Well, old friend, looks like we got through another summer without having to do a speck of work. How about that!
How many summers is it that we haven’t worked?
I lost track but I’m still tired. It sure is good not to have to pull a plough anymore.
You like just rusting away up here with this great view of the prairie and the highway, don’t you, old tugger?
I do, I love it. My tuggin’ days are long over. I pulled everybody and everything back and forth across hot dusty fields and down skinny little roads through the bush. I pushed snow away so everyone could move again. I pulled ploughs, harrows, wagons, stoneboats, binders, horses and wagons out of mires, big blocks of ice from the slough for the icebox, ha, I even pulled you a time or two, old thresher pal.
You did and you were strong and eager. Then they bought The Big Horse, as they called it, and you tugged other stuff after that. The Big Horse did most of my pulling. I mostly just sat there and let my gears tickle me once I was in action. But you were a strong tugger, my friend.
I had some fine metal days, didn’t I?
That you did.
You had your share of heroic days in the field, too.
Those times in late summer
when the heat was still on the land and the crop came in early,
those days, driven by more horsepower than I needed,
surrounded, serviced and fed by dozens of broad sweating men,
each trying to precisely match my abilities to reap,
to separate the seed from the stalk,
the gold from the grip
and deliver it
into a hopper,
the rich harvest bestowed.
I yearned all year for those weeks of thrilling work,
the rhythmic whine of the belt from the power takeoff of The Big Horse
playing counterpoint to the chugging beat of my cogs, gears and pulleys,
the dry shouts of the men feeding me the harvest,
the erotic embrace of virgin grain against polished metal,
that was my moment,
So that’s what you’ve been ruminatin’ about! You are a poet!
I am! I am the cutting edge of rusty and irrelevant farm machinery poetry which is rapidly taking over from cowboy poetry as the true voice of the prairie wind. Would you like to hear more?
I very much would and, hopefully, shall.
Indeed, you shall.
That small sound we both know so well,
it is the creep and peel of The Rust.
The Rust, The Rust, it rules us now.
Day and night, through every season,
subtle but unstoppable against the breeze and the dawn,
The Rust is omnipresent,
etching away at us.
We flake into the grey fall grass,
shatterings of us glint on cold snow and are buried,
only to glint again in spring turnings.
We are the hilltop beasts of burden,
brazen against the whip of the northerlies in January,
snapping in the August heat like brittle controlled insects
always the shedding,
the shedding Rust
speaking in its wee, timorous voice.
I can hear The Rust right now. (PAUSE) And I’m still tired.”
As the scene indicates this is a modern conversation between an old threshing machine and an old tractor, both from the early part of the 1900s. The tone here is light and jovial, familiar, sincere and endearing.
The two male voices sound old and tired but the thresher, having a poetry mission, is more cheerful and slightly more energetic than the tractor who is just plain tired. They’ve literally been put out to pasture, relegated to a rise with a view of the asphalt highway below in one direction and miles of monoculture spreading away to the horizon in the other. The two old machines have witnessed vast changes in farming, suggested by mention of The Big Horse which describes a new and large tractor, an increase in the scale and speed of farming.
Both machines are sincere in their comments and accolades about each other; their individual triumphs in the field are noted with understanding and kindness.
Thresher delivers the poetry professionally with perfect inflection and phrasing. He wraps you in his voice and holds you there. After the last poem, Tractor becomes rather wistful which is soon overwhelmed by his ongoing tiredness.
My dear friend Chris Scholl masters the voice of Tractor and I’m Thresher.
I found this location along Manitoba Highway #3 just west of Cartwright. I was struck by the positioning of the old thresher and tractor in relation to each other, the sky and the rolling land around. The highway runs by at the bottom of the rise.
This is a site I shot twice. Just as post production began, at Kevin Uddenberg’s urging, I re-shot the machinery one afternoon using the classic film language angles we know as cinematic conversation. It worked very well. The high contrast in the wide two-shot is intentional to make the close-up pans more intriguing. I lucked out with the abundant swallows sailing about on my second shoot.
On the second shoot I ran into the land owner whose permission I had not sought. He and his wife, Randy and Donna Pawich, were just curious about what I was doing. I talked to them about my heritage interests, leaving the story of The Lonesomes untold. They were friendly people and I’m sure they will enjoy the story I attached to their old equipment.
Creating the rust sound was a problem during the recording of The Lonesomes. I had a mental sound of the rust but didn’t know how to produce it. Finally I recorded the dragging of a metal rod over a concrete floor and slowed it down. Voila! The sound of rust!