Antiques and Me
When I was four years old my father bought us a new house that was built in 1772. The original deed for this property contained Stamp Act stamps from the Crown of England, and granted the land in the name of his Most Gracious Majesty, King George III, the King of England. My father bought the house furnishings and all. So I grew up in a house full of antiques, and it was not just furnishings it included a tremendous quantity of tools and farm equipment.
At the time I didn’t know the value of antiques, nor did anyone else in my family. My father, however, was the original Scotchman I swear to God he had the first nickel he ever made screwed to the head of his bed. I didn’t only get to see these things growing up, but I got to use all them too.
It absolutely amazed me to see these same artifacts hung up on a restaurant wall as a display of antique tools. None of them were antiques to me, I had used everyone of them. You take your average boy; he owned a metal snow shovel since we lived in snow country. I didn’t, mine was totally made of wood, and was over 150 years old when I first was handed it by my mother. It wasn’t too much later that I was introduced to another tool; a sickle. I wasn’t big enough to use a scythe yet.
When I was about eight years old I learned how to drive a team of draft horses doing the spring plowing, once again the plow and harrow were over 100 years old. This also included hand tools, and among them were axes and adzes, one and two man saws, buck saws with wooden frames, seeders, cultivating tools you walked behind and shoved by brute main force. This even included tools for harvesting ice off the lake across the street. I got to be pretty expert with all of these tools, even the pit saw used to saw lumber the old fashioned way. I was usually the guy in the pit pulling down on the saw, and getting all of the sawdust at the same time.
I came from a family where something didn’t work; you got handed a tool and were told to go and fix it. If you didn’t have the right tool, you went and got one that did work. This kind of training stood me in good stead later, but at the time I hated every minute of it.
It was years later that I discovered that I had a really unusual upbringing when I asked one of my fellow workers if he would hand me that thing that looked like a stove poker. He replied that he didn’t know what a stove poker looked like. I was astounded; I thought everybody knew what a stove poker looked like. This got me to thinking about my childhood and what a wonderful learning experience I had undergone.