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A Tale of Two Forks – Technology Gone Backward

In the last five years our little farm has experienced some 'internal growth' in that we have built one new barn, built three new additions and completely changed the use of another. All this led to the need of an extra fork. Being short on time – my excuse for a lack of common sense – I went to a feed mill, all the local ones are gone, and bought a pitchfork. With my wallet lighter by $35 I proudly went home with my brand new tool.

Several days later my wife and I were bedding down the cow shed. She had the brand new fork. It only took about a minute before she exclaimed, "Just using this fork is enough to make you want to quit farming!" We promptly traded forks. I promptly agreed with her and went to get another old fork.

We put up straw in round bales. Setting the round bale on end, we simply peel straw off the role and get a well-matted slab to put where we want. That brand new fork would not penetrate the straw at all once it was peeled off the bale. All this caused me to stop and study the advancements in pitchfork technology.

A Scientific (?) Comparison
In any good scientific study we need a 'control,' something to compare to. In this case we used a 90-year-old pitchfork my father had bought when he was a young man. If there ever was any identity of the fork's manufacturer, the years have long since removed it. The handle is well made, fine but strong, and worn smooth. The fork head has tines of fine steel, slender with smoothly and roundly tapered distinctive points, points that are sharp. The center tine is symmetrically tapered to the center in the formation of its point, while the outer points taper gracefully toward the outer sides of each tine.

The tines of the old fork are not quite in the alignment they once were. Anyone with much pitchfork experience would fully appreciate that statement. However, the old fork is still a trustworthy servant and can perform the tasks before it just as well as in its youth. It is full bodied and strong, yet still smooth, having distinctive character; enjoyable, like a fine wine.

On the other hand, our new fork proudly bares the stamp Union Tools ® on its handle and the paper sticker boasts "In Our Third Century Making Quality Tools." The handle on this fork looks acceptable. The fork head is rough steel with thicker tines than our old timer. The points are not points at all. In the last ½ inch of length each tine has a two-sided cut tapering toward the center that ends bluntly. The width of the fork head does not approach the width of the old fork so even if you could get some hay or straw on it, it wouldn’t hold as much.

The sticker on the handle also states there is a ten year warranty. Of course, if the fork is never used it can't ever break.

Ours has just been hanging on the barn wall ever since. I went back to the feed mill, told them the fork didn't work well; I no longer had the receipt and asked if I could return it. They looked at me as if I didn't have the proper operating license.

Adding Insult to Injury
About a week after my purchase I attended a farm auction. A bundle of old pitchforks sold for $30. Hmmm? What if I consigned that brand new pitchfork?