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"Operating a Dump Rake"
(Rural Midwest -- 1900's to 1950's)
Medium: Steel Plate   Created: 2005   Dimensions: 8'h x 15'w x 12'd

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There was probably no piece of farm machinery more popular than the dump rake in the first half of the 20th century.

Actually it is rather presumptive of me to attempt to modify it to fit my sculptural reality because no other piece of farm machinery blends function and beauty so well on its own. Nevertheless, I've tried to give the sculpture the illusion of movement. I think that I have heard somewhere that style is a tool one uses to interpret reality. I hope it works. I have a boy on the rake because it was easy to operate and forgiving. The 1902 Sears catalogue had dump rakes for sale:

The $11.90 model stated: "Any child, old enough to drive, can operate it."

The $17.15 model boasted: "Our seat is one of great comfort, arranged upon an easy steel spring, adjustable to accommodate either small boy or a man, and arranged at a point of balance which prevents weight upon the horse's back."

Once the boy mastered dumping at the right time to keep the windrow nearly straight and the going through somewhat narrow gates, his confidence soared. Never again would doing a man's work give him such pleasure. The boy is singing with his mouth forming an enthusiastic "o." During that time period he more than likely went to a one-room school with one teacher spread out to teach grades 1 through 8. Often the teacher's musical ability was limited, but she could usually pound out a few songs on the piano. The boy hitting the O's hard in "The Ole Gray Mare Ain't What She Used to Be" and "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" would make up in volume what he lacked in quality.

Finally as a former literature teacher this silent sculpture reminds me of Walt Whitman's "I Hear America Singing":

"I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day-at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs."

He learns to work alone. This isolation probably doesn't do much for his social skills, but it does give him the work habit. This after all goes along with rural belief of the time that keeping a boy busy, keeps him out of trouble. However, there are many examples where hard-working boys found time and energy for mischief.


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