Monday, September 20, 2010

I paid too much.

  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.


Aimee said...

as someone who is currently canning tomatoes with a hand-cranked food mill (well, ok, I'm taking a break while the tomato sauce cooks down a bit), I appreciate good old fashioned tools, too. I have not yet had any need for what you are describing, but I do have a hand operated meat grinder - the kind that clamps to the table like a vice and several hand powered kitchen tools ranging from a rotary egg beater to a wire whip to a usefully sized mortar and pestle. I do NOT have a microwave or an automatic dishwasher, which I know goes without saying for you but which makes my friends and neighbors assume I am some sort of luddite or renaissance re-enactor or possibly Amish.
Many other of my tools are motorized but old and well cared for - I inherited a double-barelled apple press from my mother and we have carefully and faithfully kept it going. It must be about sixty years old now (the motor was added later). The main non-electric tool I want is one of the really really good model hand grain grinders. Can't remember the brandname now. Rainbow? But they cost about $400 and so I think it will have to wait.

knutty knitter said...

The other point is that maybe you just made her day :) It isn't easy being retail at the moment. I know I'd be over the moon if I happened to sell something more expensive from my little tourist joint! Especially if it was one of my own things :)

viv in nz

Anonymous said...

Awesome! I thank you for your contribution. The antique coffee grinder on my wall - used daily - thanks you too.

MiscellanyEsq said...

Nice! I'm glad you found the grinder, and I like your concept of Karma. And hope that you are, indeed, back.

Also glad to hear that medical issues have hopefully cleared up once and for all.

Anonymous said...

Very happy for you.
know exactly what you mean!
while i would not be willing (or able - same thing) to fork over an extra $100
i recently paid $60 for a bicycle pump that had wooden handles and wait for it - a screw-on adapter - not the plastic lever thingy.
its a beauty - all cast aluminum and rubber and machined aluminum etc.
and for scale - an electric noise maker pump could be had for half the price.
And while I was pumping up both of our cars with it - my kind neighbors were offering to lend me their electrical gadgets - HA !!! - the 50+ strokes to pump one car tire - priceless joy.
So I could not find a used old one - but I can always hope that one of my kids will not need to buy another pump.

... completely with you. Congratulations!!!

tickmeister said...

I just bought the same tool for the same purpose. $165 on ebay after a long search. Too much, but the burrs were in excellent condition. Also, the same thing new is priced at about $550 in Leimens non-electric catalogue.

Olivia said...

My favourite "old fashioned tool" is my ancient glass scrubboard - the kind that costs a fortune nowadays and people hang on their wall for display only. I have had mine for years and years and while I have no intention of giving up my modern front loading washing machine, there is nothing like this trusty scrubboard and a cake of sunlight soap to rub out stains or get rags clean again.

Eric the Red said...

If it's going to last another hundred years - did you really pay too much for it? Sure, it cost more than the one you passed on earlier - but it's an investment that will continue to pay off for years to come!

Wendy said...

I feel the same way about stuff like local food - I'm willing to pay the extra price so that I can encourage those people who are willing to provide it will continue to do so.

I'm on the look-out for more hand tools, as we are working toward de-electrifying our lives. The most recent, very cool find, is a hand-crank coffee grinder - not that I really need a coffee grinder, but stuff like that one just doesn't find much anymore, and like you say, it ends up in the trash. Such a pity.

Elizabeth said...

I do tell and have been telling my daughter since she was three (and old enough to aks for a Bratz doll, merciful heavens) that we vote with our money. It's an opportunity to be heard every day.

Jimi said...

Greenpa, Thanks. Really, thank you.

J. David Boyd said...

Your contribution will definitely result in karmic payback. No good deed goes unrewarded. We (my wife and I) always strive to encourage an attitude of 'pay it forward' with everyone we meet. Congratulations on rising above your 'fundamental darkness', and doing the 'right thing'

Anonymous said...

I think this is so wonderfully subversive.

Greenpa said...

Great comments folks; I'm really delighted you're all still here. :-)

Short replies here; next post will explain why- but-

"fundamental darkeness"??!! lol. hey, man, I actually think there's a chance my descendants may survive! That makes me a wild optimist.

"subversive" - well. or. you can look at it as wildlife management.