About a month ago a man walked into the store I work at. We create Live Edge wood tables and other furniture. He introduced himself as Jim. He was a local farmer and a retired Pastor. He inquired if I would like to purchase some rough sawn wood planks and live edge slabs he had on his farm. I told him I was not the owner. I could come out and take a look for the owner.
We have a couple farmers come into the store each month saying they have downed trees due to the rough weather or aged they would like to get off their land.
I took a ride on over to his farm and he introduced me to his wife, Monica. Jim asked if I would like to see the live edge wood pieces he had. I was fine with that. They were in the hayloft in the barn he informed me. However, I'm not one for heights, so I was kind of worried about going up there.
On the way to the barn, Jim showed me a little wooden building that was a chicken coop. I looked inside and saw the ancient barn wood. The windows were dirty. The rafters were full of small wasp nests. He gave me a history lesson, that it was where his great grandfather, grandfather, and father took care of the chickens.
The little wooden and stone base building next to that was where these same men separated the cream from the milk sitting for long hours. Jim updated this building as a play house for his grandchildren.
We walked over to the barn where the hayloft was. He pointed out to me that in 1921 his Grandfather put a layer of concrete over the foundation that existed before him.
Again, I was given a short history lesson about how long their family has been in the county. The farm was established in 1914, even though the family has been here since the 1830's.
We walked into the barn lower level and everywhere I looked I saw Primitive Americana as Jim talked and pointed to all the different things hanging on the walls. Horse supplies, disassembled horse buggies, multiple scythes, square nails, old toys, books, all sorts of farming equipment, and so much more was here representing American history.
There were cabinets, a dining room table, and chairs, a round oak pedestal table, book cases, and pulleys, both wooden and metal. I strained my eyes in the dimly lit room and saw huge blackboards. Jim said those were saved from a church that was throwing them out. They were from the 1940s. Over in the corner, I saw a tailgate from a 1950s Chevrolet pickup truck.
He then showed me a bunch of metal paint can lids his grandfather painted "No Trespassing." I saw a Dead End sign. I loved it, and he let me have that. I have put that on my bathroom door.
When we finally made it to the hayloft, I told him I had a fear of heights. He climbed up the ladder and coached me up. I figured that since he was a man of God, I would be in good hands if I fell off.
I made it up to the loft. I looked around and saw the live edge wood. I also saw all the other stuff up there of value.
I told him at this point, he had so much here to offer for sale to raise funds he could forget about the wood. He was kind of surprised by that. "People want this kind of old stuff?" he asked. I responded with an, "Oh yeah." We agreed at that point to arrange for me to conduct a downsizing estate sale.
We came in and had dinner. I found out that Monica was a retired grammar teacher. Her family came from Germany. That seems to be a lot of people out in this area's history. In fact, a large population came to settle here from Germany. It seems that the railroads hired immigrants and they were able to purchase land from the railroads with part of their earnings as a company perk.
After dinner, Jim continued the tour. He took me down to his man cave. Down there, I saw antique oxen yoke in beautiful condition. There was a Civil War musket, and photos of the original settlers of the area. He had hundreds of books on religions. Then, he showed me his wall of photos of his students he coached. Some were state champions.
What turned out to be a 20-minute visit turned into a 3 1/2 hour history lesson with a homemade dinner.
Over the last month, we have been going through as much as we have been able to for the sale.
On this past Thursday, we went back into the barn. In the corner was a box marked Lone Ranger Rodeo set. Next to that was another box of metal trucks. He said those were his when he was a child. Jim reached over and found a box of old sporting goods.
Inside he showed me some baseball mitts. They were all very old. In fact, one caught my eye immediately. It was an old mitt not much bigger than a man's winter glove. What was even cooler about it was that it was a lefty glove...for me!!! It was waiting in the dark in a box in a barn for many decades until I came along to put it on.
It fit perfectly. My mind left my body and went to a place of an old baseball field. I pounded the glove with my other fist. I felt the hit of my hand. I wondered how it must have felt for a player to catch a hard line drive and how the ball must have stung their calloused hand. I imagined the hand and eye coordination that it must have needed for a fielder in the 1920s to run at full speed, arm outstretched, and catch a fly ball with a glove like this. I pictured Tinkers to Evers to Chance, the great trio on the Chicago Cubs who turned double plays. I thought of Babe Ruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Mordecai Three Fingered Brown, and so much more.
I looked at the glove. Here was a baseball glove so tiny compared to modern day era. It didn't even have a pocket for the ball to get trapped in. It had two pieces of thin leather between the thumb and the first finger.
Today's players use bigger gloves; they play in bigger ballparks; they wear padding all over to protect their multi-million dollar bodies; they have slide rules-- no more bean balls allowed; if they stub their toe they are out. They throw their bats down sometimes; they punch water coolers and break lockers when having a tantrum. They make diving catches using baskets and hit home runs with juiced up baseballs, then people cheer them. What is wrong with this picture?
I can't help but think how hard the ballplayers of old would laugh at these children who call themselves professional major leaguers while they smoke a cigar and have a brown bottle beer.
I returned to the moment when I heard Monica call out about dinner again. She was putting a pizza in the oven.
Jim and Monica have so much history in their short lives. They are like living books.
It was a great night with new friends. I thought, “This is a wonderful life.”