- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 16, 2006

Batten down the leaf blowers, folks. Fall will be here in about 132 hours: The autumnal equinox arrives at 12:03 a.m. Saturday, this according to our chums at the U.S. Naval Observatory, who have figured out when every single equinox arrives until the year 2020, just in case you want to plan ahead.

The autumnal variety of equinox is marked by that magic moment when “the sun approaches the Southern Hemisphere, marking the start of astronomical autumn in the Northern Hemisphere,” this according to the well-meaning National Weather Service, which further notes, “On that day, daylight is everywhere 12 hours.”

OK. Naturally. Daylight is everywhere. It all makes so much sense.

Surely it must be an auspicious event for everybody named Autumn, which happens to be the 660th most popular female name in America, according to the 4,275-name list monitored for frequency of use by the U.S. Census Bureau. There are a whole bunch of Autumns out there, who could be subject to all sorts of interesting situations if their last names were, say, Winter or Levy or Cleanup.

All the Autumns must feel good about themselves right now, though. Imagine. For the next few weeks, they’ll hear things like, “I just love Autumn” or “Autumn’s so beautiful.”

But autumn also signals great instinctive urges in humanity that compel them to fix things, rake things, wear flannel shirts and at least consider donning a pair of bib overalls.

In the fix-it department, there’s big news. Just this week, the WD-40 Co. of scenic San Diego announced that membership in the official WD-40 Fan Club had at last reached 100,000 members in 50 countries.

“Lube lovers” are fanatical, according to company Vice President Tim Lesmeister, who notes that the company and its fans have devised 2,000 uses for the mysterious stuff in the blue-and-yellow squirt can, including “cleaning gunk from chain saws,” “lubricating cat toys” and “removing peanut butter from dog hair,” along with 1,997 alternatives.

The productive, reassuring, fabulous list of WD-40 uses is available at the company’s Web site (www.wd40.com) and quite possibly should be required reading at Harvard.

But on to the business at hand. Perhaps the dawning of autumn is a signal to go to Home Depot and linger among the whirligigs. Perhaps not. Should the raking urge strike, one company is holding its historic own even as 400-horsepower leaf blowers awaken in garages across the land, eager to be adorned with fancy attachments and scream their way through a Sunday morning.

The Rugg Co. of scenic Montague, Mass., is still manufacturing the same wooden-toothed hay rake it made back in 1842. They are Martha Stewartian — or maybe Thomas Jeffersonian — in their hardwood splendor and simplicity. They even come with spare teeth crafted from ash wood.

Not to be outdone, Scythe Supply of scenic Perry, Maine, maintains that every yard wrangler deserves a scythe, including those about to embark upon autumnal rites.

It is a mysterious business, though. The company advises that the complete “scythe outfit” involves a custom-made, maple-handled snath, a peening jig, a quarried whetstone, a whetstone holder and, of course, a hand-hammered blade made by an “Austrian company which has been forging scythe blades since 1540.”

The group also makes sickles, which it describes as “ideal for your small mowing needs.”

Yes, well. Be sure to warn the neighbors should scything and sickling be in the offing, particularly as we near Halloween.

Last but not least, consider those overalls when the autumnal equinox looms and our minds are filled with virtuous thoughts of window-frame caulking and toolbox organizing.

Fresh from our Useless Facts Department down the hall, we find that bib overalls became popular in 1890 among railroad trainmen and had pretty well taken over as the wardrobe staple of choice among farmers and tradesmen by 1900. This is according to our he-man pals at Walton & Taylor Mercantile in scenic Richardson, Texas. The company manufactures clothing in Wild West style, so they ought to know.

“Only loggers and cowboys, who required full freedom of movement for the upper body to swing axes and throw lariats, resisted the new fashion,” the company says.

If ax-swinging and lariat-throwing is not paramount, consider Dickies, the 84-year-old work-clothes company that makes bib overalls in 15 styles for all your bib-overall needs.

The “signature bib overall” comes in four colors and features a weather-guard finish, two-way leg zippers, quilted polyester filling and a nylon taffeta lining — which sounds promising for those who might want to attend a gala after their scything.

Well, one never knows. Happy fall, and may all your autumnal rites be right indeed.

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and maple-handled snaths for The Washington Times’ national desk. Contact her at 202/636-3085 or [email protected]

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