The size of my pole

September 9, 2020

In A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of his early days as a writer in Paris, Hemingway recounts how he acted as a consultant for his fellow author, Scott Fitzgerald. In the chapter, “A Matter of Measurements,” Fitzgerald worries about the size of his equipment: “Zelda said that the way I was built I could never make any woman happy.”

I felt a bit like Fitzgerald the other day. Our dog and I went into the forest at our property in Madoc with my bow saw, to cut down a cedar pole for a new clothesline. I selected the largest tree that I could carry out of the woods on my shoulder. I felled the tree, lopped its branches, and brought it home. I dug a hole, put the pole in the hole and affixed bracing to place the pole straight before pouring cement.

My wife, however, found the pole too thin. “It’s like a toothpick,” she said.

I walked over to the neighbours farm to see if I could borrow the wheelbarrow to mix cement. The wheelbarrow was in use. An apple tree there had produced a crop so bountiful that it snapped a big branch off the tree, spilling fat red apples all over the green grass. The neighbours, who are in their 80s, stood raking apples, and putting them in the wheelbarrow.

My neighbour Gunter postponed his apple-gathering efforts. He drove over to our place on his tractor with its shovel full of apples. He stayed awhile and helped me brace the pole to get it straight, and declared it adequate.

This did not molify my dear partner, however. The next day our other neighbours took us on a tour of their new cabin at a nearby river. When we returned they stopped to visit. The husband, a big, fit, hockey-playing dad, walked behind our chalet and stood for quite awhile appraising the pole.

“It might flex on ya,” he said.

That ended the discussion. I hitched my little red wagon to the lawn tractor, loaded in the chainsaw and returned to the forest. There I cut a thicker cedar and wrestled it back to the homestead. The one whose opinion matters has declared that the new pole is of sufficient girth for the job at hand.

As Hemingway said to Fitzgerald, “You’re perfectly fine.”