John F and I went out and got a pet fish today during lunch. We’d wanted to get one for a while, but with the holidays approaching, the end of 2007 was not the time. Our knowledge about domesticated fish was increased exponentially after just two minutes with the pet store’s kindly fish-man (an actual man, not some creepy half-man, half-fish hybrid). Did you know that a fish can live in a bag for two hours? Did you know that beta fish and goldfish are the only fishes that can live in a simple (unfiltered, unheated) fishbowl? Did you know that a fish costs $1.99?
M and I went out to the “Honorable William Wall” clubhouse last night. The floating bar/barge is great. We got there early so it was quiet, but it quickly filled up. There was a regatta from the Manhattan Sailing School (with the skyline in the background) and a beautiful sunset. Highly recommended. A launch leaves from the west side every half hour after 5:15.
M and her dad C, his gal M, and I went to the Tenement Museum on Saturday. I highly recommend visiting the museum. In the “Getting By” tour we saw two apartments (one from the 1870s and another from the 1920s). So much has changed in the past century, but so much has stayed the same too. Our very young guide seemed like she’d rather be on the beach than asking rhetorical questions to tourists, but despite this it was a worthwhile trip.
Adeline Beeby (my great grandpa’s sister?) wrote the following note accompanying some old tools and an essay that she had written for an English class as a youth. The type-written note is dated 1946 and reads:
THESE TOOLS DATE BACK BEYOND MY MEMORY. IN FACT THE HAMMER BELONGED TO GRANDFATHER BEEBY WHO BROUGHT IT FROM ENGLAND. HE WAS BORN IN CUMBERLAND COUNTY, ENGLAND IN 1805 AND CAME TO THE UNITED STATES WHEN HE WAS 17 YEARS OLD. THE MALLET AND THE HUSING PEG ARE HOME MADE. THESE WERE ALWAYS USED ON THE FARM. THERE IS ALSO AN AX. THE HANDLE IS BROKEN, BUT I USE IT OFTEN (NOT FOR CUTTING). I WILL PUT A THESIS I WROTE FOR AN ENGLISH COURSE ABOUT 1930 WITH THESE TOOLS. IT IS ABOUT THIS OLD HAMMER
Adeline got an A on the following paper, which is entitled “Reflections of a Hammer”:
I have not been in this bookcase but a short time. It seems the most wonderful thing that has happened to me in many years. It is hard to keep track of the time when one cannot see even a ray of light. But when one gets to be about a hundred and twenty five years old, five or six years do not mean very much. So I can’t be sure. Now I can see out into the room and even into the street. What gives me the most pleasure is the fact that I am prized as an antique. Of course one doesn’t like to outgrow one’s usefulness, but that seems to be the way of all things. The old must give way to the new. On the shelf next to me are some other things: a mallet made of curly maple and a husking peg made of wood. Tolls like myself, laid aside. Now and then when we can hear the roar of the fire in the fireplace beside our case it seems to warm our old cold selves and get to talking about bygone days. I will tell you more about that later, but right now I can think of nothing but myself and get caught up with the times.
I can never be too thankful for the day that the two old maids were cleaning house and found me in the bottom of a bin under wrapping paper. Adeline picked me up and said to her sister, “Grace, this is a disgraceful place for granddaddy’s old hammer. Let’s clean it up and put it in the bookcase.”
My handle gave a twist and it seemed as if I could not believe those words. I waited for her answer. Grace is a thin, wide awake, energetic person. She took me in her nervous hands, turned me over and said, “of course, that’s just the place for it with the husking peg and the old mallet, too.”
What a shame they didn’t take the chopping bowl out of that bin and put it here too. But I’m hoping another orgy of cleaning will take them someday. They seem to be sensible, but kind of lazy. Anyway, the old chopping bowl isn’t quite sure where and when she was born, but I know that an old lady gave it to the sisters’ mother about forty years ago. Heaven knows how long she had it!
I tried to get the old bowl to think and try to remember about her family, but she said, “If you had your self chopped with a sharp knife all your life you wouldn’t be so smart.”
“Well,” says I, “haven’t I been pounded on my head all my life?” But it was no use. At any rate, the old mallet, the husking peg, and I are together.
But to go back to the time when I was born. How thankful I have been that I am not a human being, because I can remember well the day I was born and even before that I have dim recollections. It was in the northern part of England about 1810 that I was a piece of iron and was taken out of a mine. My thoughts took definite shape when that piece of iron was wrought into shape and I lay in the shop window with other tools of iron in Carlyle.
How well I remember the day a big tall man brought his three boys into the shop and asked for a hammer for Jacob, his oldest boy. He said that Jacob was ten years old and was going to be a carpenter’s apprentice. He said he believed it was a good thing for a boy to know something else besides farming. He said a lot more. That he was thinking of going to America where a man could own his land instead of the landlord owning it all. He said that a country that would dare to fight England twice for its rights would amount to something. He said he wanted his boys to be ready to depend on themselves in the new country.
He picked up each hammer until he came to me. “Hoot! Lad this is the one for you.” Jacob took me and with boyish satisfaction turned me over, hefted me, and said he’d like to have me.
Robert and John, the two smaller boys, ran ahead down the quiet English lanes. Jacob walked with his father. He was eager to begin learning his trade and talked to his father all the way, tossing me up and catching me as boys have always done, I guess. John Beeby, a man about forty years old, had a far-off look as he tried to meet the eagerness of Jacob, his oldest son. The half-formed resolution took shape and he decided then and there to go to America.
For the next few months, things moved fast. I was put into a chest with other things. We took passage on one of those new fast sailing clipper ships made in America. And “Oh, Boy! Did we go!” (I’ve learned such talk in the last few years).
John Beeby settled in New York State. I was put to good use building the house and farm and making the furniture. It seems to me that has been my life work, settling a family in a new place. The first years in America passed quickly. Jacob’s father and mother died. Jacob married and settled in Oswego County, New York. Of course he took me with him and I helped build his house, farm, and furniture. There were born his two boys and four girls. Oscar, the oldest boy liked to use me, although he could never drive a nail straight. He was always thinking about some book and didn’t pay much attention.
The years went on, Jacob and wife died. Oscar became dissatisfied and he decided to move his family to Michigan. Grace, one of the old maids I spoke of in the first part of my story was a baby of ten months and Adeline was born after they had been in Michigan about two years. How different was that train ride from my first long journey across the ocean on a sailing vessel. It was chug, and roar and grind all the time, a day and a night. They settled on a farm it what seemed like the woods. I was put to good use fixing that old house from time to time, building on a kitchen and fixing the roof which always leaked. There were cow-sheds and pig pens to be built. There were boys of all ages but only Dan and George paid much attention to me. I hear Dan speak of me once in a while even now. “What became of the Grandaddy hammer?” I know he’ll be surprised and pleased to see me here in this book-case.
My next journey was in an auto-truck, fifteen miles to this city. That was the fastest ride I ever hope to take. But now and then I hear a strange whirring sound that seems to come from the air overhead. It sounds like an engine. I got a glimpse of a huge bird like thing, but it was gone before I could make out anything more.
One of the old maids said, “there goes the mail plane.” Do you suppose I’ll ever take a journey in one of them. By my claws! I hope not. I wonder what will become of me when the old maids are gone. Now and then I hear them talk over whom should have the family relics. One day Grace said, “I think John should have the old hammer.” John Beeby! How strange! “John likes to build things, and maybe he’d like it.” Do you suppose, old Mallet Head, that a college senior would care about an old Has Been like me?
Note: The main points of this theme are facts in the history of the hammer. It is a family relic. It was brought from England by my grandfather about the date stated in the theme.
[Teacher’s note:] I enjoyed this account greatly. Antiques that belong to one’s family mean much to me. I am correcting your papers from an old desk that belonged to my great grandfather. I hope that your old hammer always will remain in the Beebe family. Florence Eckert.
The Urban Arborist came in today and took out part of the maple in the back yard. It was getting really gloomy back there and I think the shade has contributed to the steady decline of the grass. It took three guys four hours to setup, cut, clear and chip what appears to be about half the tree. It’s already noticeably brighter and the air circulation is better.
Lawn update! It’s one step forward and two steps back with the lawn this summer. It was doing well and then we had a couple of big events so the lawn got totally trampled. Add all the shade we get from the tree and it doesn’t stand a chance. We’ve got an arborist coming in to thin the tree a little so hopefully that will help. I planted new seed today. Keep your fingers crossed.