Gremlins from the Dark Side

Gremlins from the Dark Side-1In attempting to not be wimpy about the snow, I worked hard at keeping my chin up this morning when seeing how much snow we received.  The snowplows must’ve been out very early when finding all the highways and streets plowed.  With shovel in hand, I worked for about two hours getting the necessary shoveling done.  I’m glad it was on a Sunday morning instead of a week day because there would’ve been more foot traffic on the sidewalks before I would’ve had it cleared off.  I really don’t mind shoveling snow as long as it’s not too deep or too wet.  I also don’t like when the wind is blowing and the temperatures are hovering around zero.  I’ve had my share of dealing with sidewalks and driveways when it wasn’t fit for man nor beast outside.

Since I didn’t have appointments in real estate today, I spent about five hours pulling nails out of salvaged lumber which I happily accepted as gift from a generous client.  When pulling nails alone in a quiet place, it makes for one’s mind to begin wandering.  Sometimes I think about the wood, sometimes the people who installed it when new, but today, there as a small pile of fir flooring that must’ve come out of a very old house or building because there were some authentic square nails in them that needed to be removed.  Most don’t realize that square nails fell out of use around 1880.  Can you imagine what life would’ve been like prior to 1880 here in North Iowa?  There would’ve been no central heating–only pot-bellied and wood cook stoves, no electricity–only lamps and candles, no central plumbing which means they had chamber pots and had to have either a private or community well to supply drinking water; or even possibly having to draw water from our area rivers and streams.  They wouldn’t have had manufactured laundry laundry soap or cleaning products–only what could be created at home.  I’ve seen lye soap being made a few times, and you wouldn’t believe the ingredients necessary to make it.  When laundry day arrived, it was an all day affair. They would have to heat the water in a copper boiler, add the lye soap, and basically allow the inserted clothes to “cook”.  I asked once why clothes were boiled and the answer made my skin crawl.  It was to ensure that any possible body lice or bed bugs were being killed by the boiling hot water.  And we think we have it so hard sometimes.  I couldn’t imagine the bulk of the general public being able to survive if suddenly all our creature comforts vanished.  We’d have to learn how store fruits, vegetables and meats without freezers. We’d have to build our own outhouses, and of course always be thinking ahead so to make sure there was enough coal or firewood on hand.  Cleaning the ash boxes of cookstoves and parlor stoves would’ve been an near daily chore everyone would despise.  Yes, it’s interesting how one’s mind begins wandering when working at getting square nails out of salvaged fir flooring that had been in use since likely the late 1870’s.

Perhaps in handling it so much, I was picking up the essence of its time.  Wouldn’t it be fun to step back for at least one day and traverse the streets and shops of Downtown Mason City in and around 1880?  But, I think we’d have to make sure we dressed for the time should we start drawing crowds of people thinking we were either aliens or gremlins from the dark side.

Joe Chodur

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