Monday, April 5, 2010

Another swing of the hatchet

While I was on the phone this morning, expressing my habit of doodling in three dimensions I picked up that old Estwing hatchet and began turning it over in my hands. I mentioned in yesterday's post that I'd found three letters scribed into the tool's carbon-steel shank, but until today I hadn't spotted a second set of scratchings on the opposite side.

Some hours later I squinted through a magnifying glass at the faint letters -- first name and surname, postal route, town and state. A quick bit of research, colored by a splash of speculation, gives me a story to tell.

The place-name leads to a farming community north of Chillicothe, Ohio. As for the hatchet's owner, two candidates emerge -- father and son, Sr. and Jr.

The father was of my grandparents' era, born in Ross County in October of 1901; his death was recorded in the same locale in January of 1981. His namesake, who in his eighties reportedly goes by "Sonny," apparently still lives there. A satellite image shows the address to be a collection of buildings, surrounded by cultivated fields, at the end of a long lane.

With only sketchy information it's impossible to say for sure, of course, but it's my guess that the hatchet was employed on the family farm and may have been sold as part of the father's estate.

By today's standards, this scarred-up tool should've been retired long ago. It's not new, hardly state-of-the-art, neither pretty nor perfect.

Human hands in Rockford, Illinois forged this hatchet to last and, by god, it survived under the unsentimental lash of Depression-hardened Heartlanders. It saw a lifetime of use before finding
its way to me -- what to do with it now?

I think I know what the tool's original owner might've said:

Use it up, wear it out;
Make it do or do without.
That's certainly what my father and his father would've said. There is indeed a story in this humble hatchet, and the telling of that tale isn't finished quite yet.