More than a year ago, driving our usual route south on Rochester Road on a Sunday morning, I noticed something new. A bright yellow wheelbarrow sat alone on a mown lawn at the bottom of a high, sloping hill.

A little gem, the abandoned two-wheeled cart provoked a tinge of sympathy and worry.

“Did you see the yellow wheelbarrow?” I asked my husband.

“Yes. I saw it when I went grocery shopping the other day.”

A retired outside salesman, Mel must drive someplace every day for his mental health. And mine. A homebody, I’m glad to oblige his kindness to bring home the bacon and fetch the chicken feed.

Last night, Sunday, May 23, on the last leg of our long drive north from a visit to my Appalachian roots, we passed the mysterious cart again.

I sighed. “It’s still there. In the rain.”

“Oh no.”

For my spouse knows I respect garden tools. He once felt my wrath when he left my Warren hoe in the elements to rust.

As driving, writing, and gardening encourage contemplation, over the months I’ve puzzled out reasons why tool maintenance matters to me.

One most significant childhood memory comes to mind. My father stands before his workbench in the garage with his oil can in one hand and a rag in the other, a tool secured in a vice. Ashes fall from the cigarette clamped between his teeth.

I hear the click of the can with the drone of Van Patrick or Ernie Harwell’s voice with the roar of Tiger fans. Dad wasn’t a tidy man, and didn’t possess an abundance of equipment and machinery, but he lubricated what he owned and put it back in its place.

Mom did too. She hovered over her Brother sewing machine with the tiniest oil can I’ve ever seen. A remarkable seamstress and cook, Mom sewed for pay and catered dinner parties for our family’s doctor.

We didn’t know the word “entrepreneur” or the term “cottage business” in the fifties and sixties. Nonetheless, I observed my mother’s skill, efficiency, and adherence to “use what you have, and return it to where it belongs.”

With this nurturing in mind, I lean to the minimalist side when acquiring all manner of household and yard gadgets. One shopper in the house is more than enough to overwhelm our budget and storage space.

So, now comes summer, another season and there sits that darling wheelbarrow disused. Once upon a time, someone cared enough to paint the metal its happy daffodil color. For what purpose did the owner push this little burden-bearer downhill?

I want to know what happened to the owner, solve the mystery of the orphan, why the prolonged desertion.

Dear Reader, life’s too short. This morning I drove down and turned into the driveway where the object of my concern languishes.

What did I find? A fallen limb and rake resting in the barrow. Perhaps it’s time to drive up the hill and knock on a door.

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