In my job, I'm surrounded by antiques. No, I'm not talking about the bunch of coffee slurpers I sit with almost every morning at the local cafe. I'm talking about my present job.
For those of you who don't know, I'm the director of our local chamber of commerce. It's a wonderful place to be.
No, the antiques I'm talking about are the dozens of artifacts of the local community that have been donated to our local information center. Items donated are from area residents. The building in which I reside was built 20 years ago and sported bare walls in the log structure at the onset.
Little did we know at the time that after 20 years the walls would be covered with items donated by local folk who had no better place to display these relics of bygone days that they found in Grandpa's basement or Grandma's attic.
I really feel my age when I welcome travelers and residents alike into this building and explain to them what a particular item is. I grew up with hand-powered corn shellers, barbed wire, scythes, bolt-on ice skates, crank telephones and pitchforks. I look at these items and find it hard to believe that those people entering this place have no idea of what many of the articles are.
One of my favorite items displayed here is what we farm kids used to call the "crown of thorns." No, the item has no religious connotation. It is a simple, hand-forged device to wean a calf from a cow. The contraption was strapped to a calf's head with a number of pointed metal spike protruding upward. If a young calf approached its mother wearing such a device seeking an evening meal from the udder, one poke of this "crown" would produce a kick that would send the calf sprawling.
Just looking at that thing gives me empathy for any cow that was its target.
Before the field corn was ready to be harvested, we fed green corn stalks to our beef cattle. To garner this feed we used a short-handled item we called a "corn knife." We would pull a wagon out beside the still growing corn field and slice off a load of full-length green corn stalks, ears and all, and haul them to a bunch of eager black/white-faced steers. They chowed down the total load with relish, pushing each other to garner their share of the prize.
Over the past few years I've welcomed a number of high school students to my place of employment on what we called a "history tour" of the area. We visited about the founding of the town, how it got here and how the town survived throughout the years. Much of that history revolves around the railroad and its existence here.
Without the railroad, this town would not be present in what we know today. The railroad was the main economic instrument that drew many to set down roots in this northern terrain.
I've heard that young people are not necessarily interested in history. I'm here to let you know that young people do care about the history of where they live.
One young man, wearing a baseball cap backward on his head, approached me after one such session and said, "Why didn't anyone tell me about this? I never heard anything about how my family ended up living here. This stuff is interesting!"
So much for not caring about history, I thought. Every school should have a session on local history, I believe. You only value what you know and understand. My opinion.
The walls inside the building in which I work are adorned with hundreds of experiences. There are ricing poles, wooden wheeled roller skates, pictures of Native Americans who were here before we were, wind chimes made at a local blacksmith shop, cow bells, sheep bells, handmade pitchforks, railroad lanterns and pictures of long-gone residents proudly standing behind a string of ducks, ruffed grouse and prairie chickens.
A story is being told.
When I look up at that "crown of thorns" calf weaner, I think to myself how things have changed. And, I'm happy to think no cow now has to undergo that experience anymore.
History is a great teacher, and if you choose to look around, it is always there. I've found some of it right where I work. History resides here.
See you next time. Okay?