I'm kinda afraid to say "I'm back!" - but; I may be back. We'll see. I am back from my trip, and it was a tremendously productive and useful one, the kind that leaves your head spinning with new possibilities, and solutions to old problems, and lots of energy...
After which, you arrive home to reality, and while it's wonderful; that damned pot hole in the driveway still needs to be fixed...
And so it goes. As St. Vonnegut put it repeatedly. Anyway; an actual post:
Two days ago, I paid too much for an antique. On purpose.
The "antique" is a hand-cranked feed grinder; for turning whole corn etc. into chicken feed. It's small scale agriculture; but from the day when people bought such things expecting them to work without breaking, for a lifetime; to serve their own needs fully, and well.
I've needed one for a year, and have been suffering mentally from the fact that before I had any poultry I saw one, languishing in an antique mall, asking to be taken home for a very measly $35; a great 40 lb chunk of cast iron from another era. Nobody was buying, obviously; it's a heavy working machine, and doesn't transform well into a tchotchke. I'd admired the beautiful design and utility of it, and passed on; and kicked myself constantly for not buying it, all the days after.
Once I needed one, they vanished from the antique malls of course. I looked, asked, drove to see the other dealer across town, etc, for several years, with no luck. Most dealers knew what it was I was talking about, and had seen them; but were also aware that the market for them was nearly non-existent.
On my way driving home, I stopped for a break in the small town where I went to high school; a place to which I retain very few ties. Walked past our old house, noticed that the tuck pointing I'd done on the front stairs was holding up fine, but that whatever I hadn't repaired then was now in desperate need. And finding a couple of antique stores, looked in mostly out of community curiosity, not real hope. They always ask; "Looking for anything special?" And I always answer, as a way to open communication, and ease the situation dynamics. "Yeah, I'm looking for a... " and the hands start flailing about to express dimensions and actions.
"Nope. But the other store back up town might- they've got a basement." Ok. Trudge. "Oh, I really don't know. I have two dealers who might; let's see - " and hailing one who happened to be in, relayed my request. "Well. Maybe."
Let's look. And there, behold, is my feed grinder. Cleaned up to an insane degree, and painted fire engine red in hopes of achieving tchotchke-hood, but there it is; massive cast iron, with enough wear on the iron teeth to prove a long and useful career already achieved; with another hundred years left in it.
There's the tag. Flip it over. $145.00.
Now- the lady, who inadvertently had blurted "you know, we thought that's what it was!" and thus revealed her position of inferior knowledge, was looking at me very hopefully, as I looked up from the tag. There wasn't any doubt in my mind that if I'd played the game, she'd have cheerfully taken $100; or maybe a lot less- ("man, the last one I saw was a lot better, and they were only asking $35!") but instead, I gave her a full-smile, put out my hand, and said "Done!"
And I was actually aware of what I was doing. I was willing to pay the exorbitant price for two reasons. One; pure celebratory joy that I'd succeeded in this long search, and I can now grind my own stuff to feed the guineas and chickens; and Two -
Two is more complicated. This was a piece of pretty important machinery to me; and similar bits of old technology exist in many corners of antique stores, attics, basements and barns. Most of these old tools wind up thrown away. "Nobody wants that junk anymore; it's just scrap."
A bunch of the tools I used to build this house came out of antique stores; and the need for these simpler machines is increasing, not decreasing.
I paid the price cheerfully - to encourage, forcefully, this lady and her antique dealer friends to preserve the old tools when they find them; and make them available to those of us who recognize and want them. I didn't tell her that.
I doubt that extra $45 will ever find its way back to me, in karmic payoff. But. It was my contribution, for the day, to the direction of human enterprise. Hopefully, it will help a few others find what they need, down the road.
A little shove on the iceberg.