Friday, August 5, 2016

Hand Tools

Babies don't care about much beyond eating, sleeping and a clean diaper.  Youngsters focus on their friends and their games.  Teens and college students are dealing with hormones.  It's not until much later that one recognizes the essence of family ancestors.  While I've been curious since the 80's, I was in my 40's, my mother had hundreds of relatives and was willing to help me, I'm now over 70 years old and think about how I'm going to gather and share information about my ancestors several times a day.

All my ancestors are old and has always been old, or so it's seems.  They sat and talked while others threw balls and played with the children.  They fixed dinner and cleaned the kitchen, sewed clothes and waited in the truck waiting for the grain from the combine.  Their tools were old and didn't look like those in the hardware store or farm supply shop.  Their clothes were simple and they looked old also.  Their conversations were void of modern technology.  Of course, I'm almost 20 years older than they were when I first thought they were old.

Now I'm doing what my ancestors were doing.  I paint small projects with a shaking hand.  I do small jobs around the yard, hoeing, raking, watering - with old tools that I have maintained with replacement handles made of tree branches.  I have a hoe - I love it, it's my favorite - that has been sharpened so many times by grandpa Ziegler that it's not much more than a sliver.  The metal part is loose where it connects to the wooden handle.

In the shop I treasure several tools.  While I can't read the numbers on the carpenter square that I got from the Ziegler estate, it's unique and special because modern carpenters have two legs measuring 16 and 24 inches, both divisible into the standard of plywood 48", and the square I have has legs of length 18 and 24 inches.  This type of carpenter square was common before the use of plywood and studs were placed 18" apart.

In the kitchen are several items that one might find in an antique shop: a crank butter churn with a cracked glass jar, a toaster where the sides fold out, a milk bottle and a couple paper lids, all of which don't get used because some part of them is cracked or broken.  In the same kitchen is a large wooden bowl for shaping butter or kneading bread.  Some of these may have been used by the Ziegler or Weisz ancestor, maybe one of my great-grandparents.  There's also a butter spatula for shaping butter and a wrought iron iron.  Neither get used as we have an electric iron and we don't have a cow for cream to make butter.

As I work in the kitchen using some of these items I realize how long they have been in use, and I can envision how my ancestors might have used them.  Not far from where I'm cooking stands a China closet.  The sides are curved glass, as is the door.  The feet and top are eloquently carved.  It's a cabinet that I envied as it sat in grandma Ziegler's living room near Hebron.  Mom acquired it after Lenhard and Elsie died.  I acquired it after Mom died.  Our grandparents bought it from Rev. Debus, one of the first ministers of our church in Hebron, when he left Hebron.

On the wall behind the China closet is an oval shaped picture frame with domed glass front.  The picture is Wilhelm and Regina Weisz Ziegler, our grandparents, at their wedding.

The most cherished and therefore carefully stored in my desk is a measuring tool.  It's like a foot long ruler but different.  When folded, yes, it folds, it's six inches long.  When unfolded it's two feet long.  The hinges and edges are metal, maybe a brass; the core where the numbers and hashmarks are scribed is wood.  I played with this as a child, completely intrigued by its structure and function.  This valuable antique is probably worth less than $20.  For me, invaluable; it was my grandfather's and maybe his father's, made after 1870.

Now I am my ancestors, old, stiff, with old tools so I am in a place where I want to share this heritage with those who don't care yet.  But when they will care, I may not be here remembering what they want to know.  So I go to write.