Side by side upon the slope with the scythe in hand: this time it is not only work...
he two reapers of the village challenge each other. At stake are the honour and the pride of being the best with the scythe. At dawn one can hear the hammers beating the blades to improve the edge, driven by the experience of Modesto and Giovanni. A sound that attracts two young villagers who become witnesses and judges of the event.
The blades are prepared while the grass is still wet with dew which gives a better passage of the blade. The sheath of the hone is fastened well and ready, set, go. Who will reach the bottom first? Who will be the best scythe? The open and vigorous style of the one or the sharp and rapid rhythm of his companion in strain? The last stretch is reached and the winner seems already clear but it does not take much to change things… not much at all.
ModestoSolid arms like oak trunks and a smile always ready to widen, even under the strain of a meadow to reap.
GiovanniA reaper of Ostana, famous for his placid character and his unrelenting blade: nobody barbers the grass like he does.
The best reapers were the first to be hired and they could even have more than one client during the season. The best were famous; their names preceded them and were spoken with respect. The skill lay not only in the way they handled the scythe but also in their knowledge of how to prepare it. First of all the scythe’s blade had to be well honed. The blade (lou dalh), taken off the long wooden handle, was put on a small portable anvil (la martleuiro) and beaten (martlà) with a special hammer in order to thin the blade’s edge. One proceeded from the blade’s point towards its base (lou garèt, the heel) whereas the lefthanders proceeded in the reversed sense from the base towards the point. The thinning could last even half an hour and it was done even two or three times a day. Furthermore the reaper interrupted his rhythmical oscillation to whet the scythe’s edge with the hone he carried with him.
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