New Idea Manure Spreader

we bought an old used manure spreader
small holding 80 bushels
enough for one pass of 500 feet
faded red planks bolted to its steel frame
rust on metal
‘action will rub off rust thick steel underneath’
we are told
tractor pulls
the company name ‘New Idea’
in faded big black letters against the weathered red
my uncle worked there late 1940s

in open view
drive chains
continuous belt of push boards on rails
wrap around the cargo box
at the dump end
three axels of blades and tines to scoop and toss manure
gears orchestrate the mechanical assembly
two five-foot handles engage disengage the drive
we lube and grease
whoop when the fans turn
fling the natural fertilizer on the field
Wear and rust disguise utility
Tractor, also older technology, pulls spreader
Endless chains from wheels power spindles, fans, and push-boards

Ronald Tobey

What is the significance of this work to you?

The spreader symbolizes the utility of old technology. The operating chains, gears, and axles are in plain view, and easily accessible for maintenance and repair.  The technology is understandable. The past is open to use as is the spreader.

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

The Ohio company that designed and built the spreader originated in 1899, made the first mechanical spreader, much like this one. It was horse-drawn. We use a tractor, but the tractor, although manufactured new, is also an older technology, pre-computers.

What was your process for creating this work?

My creative process began with photographing the spreader and documenting its many details. I didn’t intend to write a text poem, rather to create a brief videopoem using only images. I moved to incorporate text because of a serendipitous discovery. I was reading a memoir by an uncle (married to a sister of my father), in which my uncle mentioned working after World War II for the “New Idea” company. I wanted to use this information in any poem, as it too symbolized the reuse of ideas created by our ancestors. I realized I would have to combine image and text.

Ron Tobey grew up in north New Hampshire, USA, and attended the University of New Hampshire, Durham. He has lived in Ithaca NY, Pittsburgh PA, Riverside CA, Berkeley CA, and London UK. After professional careers in Southern California, he and his wife moved to West Virginia, where they raise cattle and keep goats and horses. He is an imagist poet, writing haiku, storytelling poems, spokenpoetry, and producing videopoetry. His work has appeared in two dozen literary magazines.

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