I have a small cottage up on the Marblehead peninsula and my wife wanted some new plants put in on the side yard. I told her no problem. She went over to Barnes Nursery on Catawba and picked up four boxwoods. It was a warm Saturday afternoon, I figured it would take no more than a couple hours at most. It took me about 5 minutes to dig through the extremely thin layer of top soil before I hit limestone. No matter how hard I tried to chip at it, nothing.
Then my neighbor Tom stopped by. “Those are going to look good, once you get ’em planted,” he said with just the hint of Kentucky twang.
“Yep,” I said. “the problem is that bed rock.” He peered into the shallow depression. If Tom was a spitting man, I’m sure he would have right at that moment… but he wasn’t and he didn’t.
“What you need is a spud bar.” I’ve been in the trades for a few years, but never heard of a spud bar and I never knew if ole Tom was kidding or if he was on the level. Sometimes Tom can really lay one out without me even see its coming. He could see I was puzzled.
“Yep. A spud bar. I don’t have one myself, but Bob Sachet–he’s got one. If you’d like, I could ask? He’s got just about every thing tucked into his shed. Yep, spud bar. That’s the ticket.”
“Spud bar? Sounds like some Idaho hangout?” I say with a little grin.
“Huh?” Tom says like I’m stupid. I guess I am since I’m the one that doesn’t know about a spud bar.
“Ole Bob, he sure is one that doesn’t do anything if he doesn’t have to do anything. His dog is the same. I think that ole mutt has to lean against a tree to lift his leg. I’ll go see if Bob can find that spud bar. That’s what you need. That limestone around here is always everywhere you want to dig.” And with that Tom started off down the road. I’m kind of new here (3 years now) but I’ve never heard of Bob Sachet, or his dog, but Tom seems to know him. Tom seems to know just about everyone and everything about everyone. I kinda like Tom– he’s what my grandpa would call a good ol’boy.
Forty-five minutes later I can see Tom walking back. He’s got a long metal bar slung over his shoulder. A spud bar no doubt.
“There you go,” he says handing me the long heavy bar. “I used that bar to dig some fence holes some time back. It’s not easy, but it works. Limestone– everywhere. I don’t know how a tree can grow here and stand up.” With that he takes the long bar and straddles the depression where my wife wants me to put the boxwood. “Use it like a jack hammer. Raise it up and slam it down. That pointed end will cut through that limestone in no time.” A few quick strokes, sure as he said, a big chunk of limestone came out revealing a deep chasm big enough for the boxwood with room to spare.
“Thanks Tom. I never would have thought…”
“Yep. Spud bar. I think Bob used it for ice fishing to chop a fishin’ hole. Sure as heck he never used it for diggin’ holes in the ground. That’d be too much like real work,” he paused a moment admiring the future boxwood home.“I don’t know where the name came from. Maybe it was used to plant potatoes.”
I thanked Tom and he turned and walked off down the road. “Let me know when you’re done. I’ll get it back to Bob.”
By the time my wife got back from shopping down in Port Clinton I had all four boxwoods planted in a neat row. I’m sitting in one of our Adirondack chairs admiring my work. “Well look at you. I thought you’d still be digging holes. You know there’s lots of limestone around here?”
“Yeah, I know.”