Everyone is afraid of something.
I knew a man who seemed to have no fear of anything other than not breaking bones or otherwise getting all beat up on a regular basis. Without this he had nothing to boast of. An odd case maybe, but the point is that everyone is afraid of something.
On the farm, for Dave Pitman, it was the bucksaw. A bucksaw was a big circular saw blade driven by an electric motor or gasoline engine. They were used before modern, lightweight chainsaws came on the scene, mostly for cutting up trees for firewood; and nearly every farmer had one.
The blade was usually about 24 to 30 inches in diameter, and was bolted to a shaft that had a pulley on the other end. That pulley was connected to the motor by a drive belt, which was like the fan-belt you have under the hood of your car, just much wider, flatter and longer.
Bucksaws were mounted on the simplest of wooden frames with no table, just a few boards around the blade for you to rest a tree limb on. When a bucksaw was turned on, it was downright scary. There was no guard for the blade. There was no guard for the belt. And when working around one, you had better be thinking clearly and keep good footing.
Bucksaws are the kind of device that younger people today find hard to believe ever existed. At that time bucksaws were in use, there was no Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Nor were there five or six warning tags on an electrical extension cord that you purchased at the hardware store.
The bucksaws we used clearly displayed the absence of OSHA, and in some respects may have been safer to operate than some saws with fourteen warning labels and safety devices on them. At least it was glaringly obvious who was responsible for your safety, and that you had better have a proper respect for the tool you were using.
It seems that at that time no one ever thought of any kind of safety device other than using one’s head. But sometimes that wasn’t enough. One hundred and thirty-seven volumes of OSHA regulations later, sometimes it still isn’t.
This article was condensed from the new local history book, The Last of the Prune Pickers: A Pre-Silicon Valley Story, by Tim Stanley. It is available online at www.2timothypublishing.com