Did anyone notice how the scene where Ballard takes the axe to the blacksmith (70-74) reads more pornographically than any of the scenes where sex is actually presented between the human characters? The inanimate axehead is assigned the female gender identity throughout the passage, for example “we take another heat on her only not so high this time”, “watch her well”, and “the proper thing is to fetch her out the minute she shows the color of grace” (72). The smith gives Ballard a tutorial on how to sharpen the blade, which reads like a primer on how to engage in a sexual act from beginning, “you want to take your first heat at a good yeller and work down” (72) to the celebratory smoke at the end “the smith took a splayed cigarstub from his apron pocket and lit it with a coal from the forge” (73).
I thought it was odd that McCarthy would write an entire scene about sharpening an axe blade, especially since the scene was one of the more lengthy passages in the novel and we never witness Lester using it. It could serve to foreshadow the first time we witness Lester in a sexual encounter with a girl (86-89).