Rachel Wise: Mucking around with perfect manure fork

Well it's happened again.

Barely months after my search for - and discovery of - the perfect manure fork for mucking out my horse paddocks, tragedy has struck.

It had been coming for a while, I must admit. My initially perfect manure fork had, in the past few weeks, lost one of its tines and it was dropping the odd wee clod as we travelled. I could see the end of our happy partnership looming and I had started thinking, in a casual sort of way, about starting to search for a replacement.

But the end, when it did come, was sudden and shocking.

I had waltzed gaily into the paddock one morning last week, anticipating half an hour of peace and quiet as I scooped up a paddock-full of horse poo (because no one interrupts you when you're shovelling horse poo, lest they get handed the wheelbarrow). But when I approached the tree where I had leaned my trusty manure fork, it was lying on the ground, shattered.

Overnight, one of my horses had trampled my poor poo-fork to death. Neither horse was showing any signs of shame. Yet there my fork lay, handle bent and tines all broken.

What to do?

I rushed to my local saddlery but to my despair they were sold out of my preferred brand. Instead they offered me all they had left - a wee pink poo-scoop with a matching tiny rake.

Which would have been perfect if I had a little pony - maybe called Twinkle - that lived in a stable, ate birdseed and did dainty little rabbit-droppings.

My horses are half-tonne beasts with blokey names like Bryn and Chalkie, who free range in craggy paddocks and eat entire trees and low-flying aircraft. They poo small replicas of Mt Everest complete with rocky outcrops and the occasional stranded climber.

The pink poo-scoop simply wouldn't suffice.

With promises that they'd order me a more substantial tool ringing in my ears I did a rapid search of hardware stores for something that would be up to the challenge in the meantime.

Three hardware shops in, I was beginning to lose hope.

Everything was too flimsy or too heavy. I needed a tool that could carry a load without adding to it.

Just as I was resigning myself to a sturdy pair of gloves and a lot of bending over, there it was ... the biggest, most orange, plastic longhandled dustpan I had ever seen. It was light, it was strong, and did I mention it was orange? Even Chalkie, dopey as he is, couldn't accidentally stand on anything that glowed road-cone orange.

I flailed it about in the hardware-store aisle to test its mobility. People looked at me funny but I didn't care. It scooped well, it tipped easily for poo-unloading, it had a good length of handle. I grabbed a rake to try out my rake-into-scoop technique. Yes, it would do. It was the perfect temporary poo-fork replacement.

The people who were looking at me funny gave me a wide berth as I made my way, beaming, to the checkout. The giant dustpan even smelled good - that "new plastic" smell.

The big orange item took pride of place in the front seat of my Jeep on the way home. I very nearly seat-belted it in but decided that could be a step too far.

At home I couldn't wait to try it out. And in my absence the horses had obliged with a dozen or so mountainous turds.

Armed with the garden rake, I presented the dust/poo-pan to the first turd-mountain and raked it on board. Not only did it fit, but there was room enough for a second! I was in manure-shovelling heaven.

Round and round the paddock I went, raking and scooping. Admittedly it was unwieldy using two tools for a job usually performed with one. But I told myself it would develop both my biceps at the same time, unbalanced biceps being something that I had worried about a little, using the single-fork technique.

There was but one small thing that began to worry me over the ensuing days and that was the unabashed orange-ness of my new scoop. Mucking out the front paddock, I noticed I was being, well, noticed.

I was getting quite a few toots and waves from friends and acquaintances. More than usual. And some staring from complete strangers. When I started getting comment in the local supermarket, "I saw you the other morning in your paddock, with your big orange shovel"... I started to feel a little self-conscious.

I started mucking out under cover of darkness. I moved the horses to the back paddock.

And I awaited the call from the saddlery to say my order had arrived. On Friday I got the call.

To my delight my new fork was there, and it was in basic black.

Order - and relative anonymity - restored!

- Hawkes Bay Today

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