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Old 08-28-2014, 10:46 PM
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What's a short-handled shovels

'A short-handled shovel, right, is a shovel. And get this... it's handle is short!'

I thought I'd get that out of the way at the beginning. The folk tune Big Rock Candy Mountain contains the lyric, 'There ain't no short handled shovels.' What exactly is the significance of a 'short-handled shovel'? Some sort of punishment? (The line follows one about a jail.) Or is it a specific tool for a particularly hard job, where a long-handled shovel can't be used? Maybe it's like the 'short straw', and the loser has to use the shovel with less leverage?
Old 08-28-2014, 10:48 PM
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Then what did the Seven Dwarves use ?
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Old 08-28-2014, 10:52 PM
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No cite that the song is necessarily is talking about this aspect of shovels, but...

A short-handled shovel is nice if you're moving material from high to low (wheel barrow to ground), but backbreaking if you're trying to dig a hole. Around my house, we've got one of each, and if two people are working, well... someone's getting the short shovel.

I always figured that's what the song was talking about: digging holes or trenches with the wrong tool.
Old 08-28-2014, 10:56 PM
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Short handled shovels are less efficient for moving lots of dirt, but they're lighter and easier to use in small spaces. If you're working all day moving dirt you'll kill your back with a short-handled shovel

Short Handle Shovel
Old 08-28-2014, 10:58 PM
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Plus, the jail reference is a nice jail, which you can easily break out of and you don't have to do any work and can sleep all day. So, short-handled shovel = back breaking work, which you don't have to do at that jail.
Old 08-28-2014, 11:01 PM
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Found this by Googling:
Quote:
Short-handled shovels were cheaper, easier to account for, easily portable, and made (relatively), poor weapons; these combined to make them the tool of choice for chain gangs and other impressed labor.
Old 08-28-2014, 11:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pasta View Post
but backbreaking if you're trying to dig a hole.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Telemark View Post
If you're working all day moving dirt you'll kill your back with a short-handled shovel
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nametag View Post
Found this by Googling:
Quote:
Short-handled shovels were cheaper, easier to account for, easily portable, and made (relatively), poor weapons; these combined to make them the tool of choice for chain gangs and other impressed labor.
Got it. Thanks!
Old 08-28-2014, 11:50 PM
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An entrenching tool is a short handled shovel.
Old 08-29-2014, 12:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ranger Jeff View Post
An entrenching tool is a short handled shovel.
Indeed, and during the Great Depression the men using them would have been using WWI surplus entrenching tools. Great if you are a soldier and your life is on the line and you need any shovel, but awful to use regularly.
Old 08-29-2014, 01:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ranger Jeff View Post
An entrenching tool is a short handled shovel.
They're really the only tool that will work for a narrow, deep hole that you're standing in. The blade on a long handled shovel cannot be brought to the horizontal with a long handled shovel in a deep, narrow hole.
Old 08-29-2014, 09:19 AM
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In the context of the song, it simply means life is easy, even in prison, where hard labor is not requires. "Short handle shovels" just adds three syllables to match the meter of the verse.

Last edited by jtur88; 08-29-2014 at 09:24 AM.
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