November in Pennsylvania’s Butter Valley is the height of leaf raking season. Living on acres of mixed woodland ensures that we have no shortage of leaves to be removed from the driveways and lawns. On a brisk and sunny Sunday, this provides an opportunity for spending as much time outdoors as possible in the company of my canine companion Bruno, and getting some good exercise too.
The tool in my hands is a critical component of the equation that makes this one of my favorite autumn activities. The Franco family rake brings far more to this “chore” than any other tool could. My wife’s family immigrated to the small town of Lewis Run Pa. in the early 20th century from the Abruzzi region of Italy. Her grandfather, Alley Franco, was a passionate gardener, caretaker, and handyman in the finest Italian tradition. His modest home was always well maintained, and his garage was lined with pegboards and workbenches festooned with hand tools.
The only flaw in Alley’s rake can be traced back to those pegboards. The rake was purchased from the local True Value Hardware store and is emblazoned with the nameplate for the Green Thumb Company. Metal tines are matched to a hickory handle which is well polished by Franco palms. The rake is the perfect weight to feel satisfying in your hands, but not fatiguing. The metal tines expertly extract damp leaves from grass and gravel with equal acuity. Its only annoyance is the hole drilled about 6” from the end of the handle. Alley drilled this hole to hang the rake from a hook in that pegboard, keeping his garage well ordered.
This hole might not have bothered a shorter man, one who did not have the benefit of growing tall from the abundance of his adopted country. For myself, I need more of the handles length to be comfortable and efficient. That means putting my hand right over the hole, and feeling its edges dig into my palm with every sweep.
No other flaw that I have encountered in a piece of technology has meaning like this one.