Monday, December 1, 2014

Rainy Days And Shanties (w/pic)

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They barely had enough work to keep me in the saddle today, but one of my deliveries was to a place near Center Point, West Virginia. There’s a compressor station being built there on McElroy Creek, just off Rt # 23 on Riggins Run Road. Such technology doesn’t impress me, but the drive there did. It was raining all day, sometimes fairly hard, but sometimes barely sprinkling.

All along the rural roads leading to my destination were farms and little country homes, some lived in and some abandoned. What caught my attention the most, though, were all the little sheds and shanties that were part of the “dependencies” of the old homesteads. Most were built of rough lumber from the local sawmill back in the day when mills were more common than now. A few were built of corrugated tin. Some were locked up, some had doors standing open and others were so deteriorated that the roofs were lying nearly on the ground. Through some of the open doors I could see old farm tools, auto parts, rusted machinery and masses of rusted and dusty items that defied identification from a moving truck.

How I wished that I could snoop in all those old buildings! Of course I wouldn’t even know who to ask most places, since the most interesting ones were usually abandoned. I have a fetish for old tools and farm items. Some of the tools that I love most to use around my shop and yard have come from older relatives, antique shops, abandoned sheds and junk piles. Such things have personalities, and stories, that modern tools lack. The quality is often better, too. However, even those things too far gone to be used are interesting to look at and speculate as to their age and use.

In my youth, many rainy days were spent at my grandparents’ places, snooping around the outbuildings, learning about the past and asking questions when I got really stumped. It’s amazing the things I know about today, because of that hobby, which many people my age have no clue about. I’ve never harnessed a horse in my life, for instance, yet I know all the parts of the harness, their purpose and how to get it on the horse—all from studying old junk and asking questions.


One of my favorite spots was the tool shed up the hollow behind the barn of my paternal grandparents. My granddad had put a sawmill up there during the war, and though he never roofed the mill, at least he built a small building, perhaps 12 feet by 20, where he could put stuff out of the weather and even hole-up, himself, if the rain got too heavy. Many of my teenage hikes, hunts and horseback rides mysteriously swung by the old shed. Perhaps I should have closed it in and made it my hermitage; there were four springs and a running stream, all within 150 yards of the place. Closed in properly (or otherwise), it would have heated easily with a woodstove. I found myself thinking of the old loafing spot often today, as the rain hit the windshield. I reckon some days are custom made for memories. © 2014


Very poor photo of the old tool shed up the hollow, taken in 1973.
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9 comments:

John Wooldridge said...

There is something almost spiritual about handling old tools and machines Mr Smythe and as for old sheds and such like? Well enough to say that I wouldn't feel whole without my sanctuary.

Sixbears said...

You never know what treasures you'll find in those old places -even if it's only golden memories.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

I used to love going through my grandmother's house, although it wasn't tools they had owned a clothing store and pharmacy plus kept just about everything that their relatives had when they passed away. There were dress forms, mannequins, 30 year old prom dresses, high heels, purses, old artwork, vintage comics, books from the 1800s, very old toys, etc. You could spend hours digging through the upper bedrooms and attic. I really like the shed, it would be a great place to hang out.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

I learned about the old tools like you did and it actually paid off for me once back when I took an Archaeology class. I could identify most of the metal items that were being dug out of the old cabin site near Rt 60 west of Lexington, so they eventually hired me to work with the next class that summer. Of course it comes in handy now that I am living life like the old days and using hand tools.

Chickenmom said...

When I was a teenager friends bought a farm in the Catskills. There was an old barn and we kids spent hours in there. I still have newspapers from the 1800's that were found in there. Back then the old tools didn't interest me. Darn!

Mamahen said...

Some of my fondest memories involved snooping around all the various barns n outbuildings on the the old farm mom n dad bought when I was about 6 yrs old.....Found many treasures I no longer have but have great memories off in and around them. Loved sneaking off into on of them on a rainy day :))

Bob Mc said...

I love to poke around in old barns and other buildings. There used to be a lot of them around here, some dating back to the gold rush days. Most are gone now, either fallen down or torn down.

JaneofVirginia said...

There IS something spiritual about those dependencies and the tools inside. These places were colleges of sorts and allowed those who lived there a never ending source of courses and of knowledge. Those types of mechanical knowledge were, and are power. The power to repair something or keep something going with something you already have, is power indeed. Thank you for your account of your day.

Gorges Smythe said...

Looks like I'm in good company, folks.