Cotter Key

A young farm girl learns

the fine art of lining up

a wagon tongue with

a tractor’s towing hitch,

dropping in a bolt, securing it

with a cotter key.

She learns to watch gates

while the tractor chugs through,

hauling the wagon

to drop off hog troughs,

she keeps porkers away

from the gate and escaping.

She learns to wear a shower cap

while painting her inventor-father’s

winter projects, a pig feeder,

a gravity wagon, lest she ride

to school with barn-red

paint in her hair.

To scrape mud from

cultivator shovels while

Dad is in for noon dinner,

which she had stirred

the gravy for and made from scratch

his favorite spice cake.


  1. I love your poem, particularly how it ends with the spice cake. I remember cotter pins from when I was growing up. My dad and my brother used them in various tinkering capacities that I don’t remember now!

  2. Joy,
    Love it. You brought back muscle memory for a wagon tongue, cotter key for the pin and avoid pinching your fingers on top and bottom while holding. You brought back dinner smell. Muscle memory and smell of scrapping off moist soil from cultivator shovels.
    Love it.

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