Nov 25, 2006

Beautiful Old Thing

I've spent a wonderful week off, and part of my long-put-off things to do was to clean out my shop.

See, I try to clean. I do. I've got a shop that is four connected buildings, all of which were constructed at different times out of whatever material was cheap and plentiful, and all this was done some 30 years ago by my father. Needless to say it's not only motley it's comfortable, dusty but perfectly usable, and even after several years of use by me it's still packed to the gills full of the most useless stuff, and some of the interesting stuff. Well, okay, I'll be frank with you. A lot of it is stuff that was interesting to my father. There are boxes and boxes of old galvanized bits of steel, strange bolts, couplers, and bits of electrical substations that were built almost 40 years ago. Which are more than likely still missing certain integral galvanized steel bits. No matter, now they're extremely heavy when in one place, and are in the way.

Yesterday and today I spent cleaning. Seriously cleaning, not that sort of rearranging that I'm good at, which doesn't really accomplish much but stir up dust. Not only cleaning to sort my own stuff out but cleaning to get rid of or keep whatever other things have been in there for these past 30 years and no longer need to be. And I found a treasure amongst all that stuff. And bear in mind that this treasure is going to be looked at askance by a lot of people, but it's a treasure to me because it's a link to a past that's been almost forgotten by a lot of very old people, and is utterly alien to most.

A leather yoke. Somewhere in Missisippi, probably around my family's ancestral home is a horse or a mule who was buried an extremely long time ago. And if that old beast were up and around today he'd be extraordinarily thin, but if he had his old shape back he'd know the fit and feel of this old leather collar, packed with straw. He'd recognise the jingle of the buckle at the bottom, and with it fitted comfortably to his shoulders he'd be able to comfortably pull a plow, and maybe on Sundays he'd pull the wagon down to the old A-frame wooden church.

Now? Now it's just a dusty old link to a past that most people would find so impossibly alien that they couldn't fit themselves into that time no matter how they tried. For me, it's something that I could bring inside, lay down on an old blanket and work on with love and lots of elbow grease. It drank up a fair quantity of saddle soap, and used almost all of a tin of mink oil before it stopped absorbing that elixir, and now it's dark and warm and has a wonderful smell of days gone by.

For me it's a wonderful old treasure, something to hang on my wall and show my daughter and the nephews and niece, so that one day they'll realise that the world did not always come fully equipped with HDTV and cellular coverage and food wrapped in sterile polystyrene trays, and that the term "horsepower" used to mean something quite different.


Cheesy said...

Ohhhhh I have a yoke hangin in my office here at home! Also have a pic of my horse behind it... makes a very interesting frame for her... I miss her terribly.

Nancy Dancehall said...

Wow. That is so cool.

It'll look great in your office, I imagine. And I bet it smells wonderful now.

Irrelephant said...

Cheesy, that is an EXCELLENT idea! Thank you! Granted I've never owned a horse in my life...I'm gonna have to see if I can get a picture of a surrogate horse.

Nancy, thank you! I think it will, too. And yes, it's soaked all that mink oil and saddle soap in overnight, and now it's not so pungent, just has that soft, warm smell of old leather. *joy*

Anonymous said...

Wow! My mom would be very jealous of this find. Very jealous.

Anonymous said...

It looks like a leather toilet seat. Are you sure it was a yoke? Ot a joke from your father to you?

Actually, I think it is beautiful and you should be happy you cleaned it and oiled it and it smells so wonderfully nice.

Cheesy said...

YQW~~ I've seen them with mirror behind them too...