The Old Man: Marrying Stuff

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When the Old Man was much younger, he took a beautiful bride who had many old things. Some of these things were antiques she and her parents had collected and some were heirlooms of previous ancestors.

In most cases these things were odd (five wooden wall clocks from 1900, commemorating the Spanish American War) or cumbersome (an ornately carved pump organ). Other family members had already furnished their homes in particular styles, so these things became our things.

I think many young people are reluctant to accumulate antiques and heirlooms because they fear their ability to choose things for their own idiom might be compromised. Or perhaps they wisely anticipate the burden of a 250 pound pump organ.

We, however, had little to place in our first homes and we were possessed of a romantic – or perhaps simply unrealistic – nature. So the organ first joined us in Winchester, Virginia, and we then took it with us to suburban Chicago, back to Florida, then to Washington, D.C. and finally back to Florida again. Never once, have I been able to play an entire song on it. But great grandchildren of the man – my late father-in-law – who replaced the fabric on the wood treadles half a century ago merrily coaxed low moans from it just the other day.

Some of the other pieces that have been with us our entire lives together include:

•A Victrola that stands four feet tall in a conspicuous place in our living room, and still spins nonagenarian records at 78 RPM whenever the spirit moves us and we want to know what 1924 sounded like.

•Clocks and more clocks, in addition to the aforementioned timepieces from the Spanish American war. These include a small, ornate German clock that used to chime the hours and tick the moments in between for us in our cold and cramped first apartment, an English basement on Capitol Hill.

•A cherry china cabinet with glass shelves and a bowed glass door that my wife helped her father refinish, using Q-tips to reach into the narrow, carved grooves. As young parents we feared a toddler would crash into the glass, and for years positioned furniture defensively around it.

•A maple gate-leg table from the Depression that could tuck into a small space against the wall when we didn’t need it, or be made to expand by means of an ingenious folding leaf into a surface large enough for six and a Thanksgiving turkey.

Call them antiques, heirlooms or hand-me-downs, I think we always felt that these things were a trust, over which we would enjoy stewardship for a time, and then it will be someone else’s turn to live with them. We have added considerably to the collection over the years with many odd and cumbersome pieces of our own. What makes them special is the knowledge that they meant so much to someone long before us, and they have continued to play prominent roles in the accumulated memories of our family for the past three decades.

I hope our kids have big houses.

The Old Man can be found teaching vocabulary to his gun dog in the back yard of the Old House and occasionally typing his ridiculous and profane thoughts on an old Underwood typewriter.

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The Vagrant: The View From Here

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by Vagrant

I’m in a city that stretches past the horizon in every direction. I’ll be here for a year. Hot, parched, cloudless sky above for months; the city itself a chaotic mess of beige and dirt and life. Wikipedia tells me that the population density of Cairo is near 50,000 per square mile; where I live it’s probably even higher.

It’s a strange and exhilarating change from growing up in Polk County—a peaceful, relaxed, even meandering haven—one I considered boring, slow, and boring again when I was younger.

Running with bags to the local orange grove to pick some fresh fruit, camping in Saddle Creek Park and kayaking through the entwining lakes was my normal. Now my alarm clock is the dawn call to prayer echoing through a city of millions. By the time I get dressed, enjoy my Turkish coffee at a local coffee shop, and start my day the streets are already packed and nearly immobile with masses of people. Exciting? Certainly. But there are plenty of things to miss from home.

There is something to be said for the quality of life a live Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band along with some cheap, decent beer with friends affords (the swill available here, while effective, is terrible). Not to mention the thrill of sailing along the beaches of Anna Maria; watching the thunderstorms roll through Lakeland; reading Tolstoy on a hammock strewn between palm trees in the back yard; or casually appreciating the epitome of southern belle fashion—the sundress.

That’s of course leaving out the surprisingly diverse local characters which make Polk come to life: the metal-head who’s on his way to becoming a doctor, the youth minister who moonlights as a beer expert, the childhood friend who is becoming something of a mechanical savant, or my retired neighbor who recently told me her twin retirement hobbies are travel and skeet shooting!

Florida may move at a bit slower of a pace than the rest, but it never ceases to be interesting. Especially from here.

Vagrant is a Florida native who got stir crazy and wanted to see the world like the stereotype of the twenty-something he is, but then somehow pulled it off. He is currently residing in Cairo.

The Old Man’s Books: Look for these five collections when you are book hunting

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Our fine old dining table is groaning under the weight of our latest book buying debauchery. Looking at the stacks of literature, biographies and references has my head spinning. It is the aftermath of a local estate sale that included a magnificent library of thousands of volumes.

Book dealers swooped in early to look for first editions and the things they can turn profits on. But later, when we arrived there were still great finds. We came home with nearly 100 volumes of what a book seller friend of mine calls “book books.”

These are not the collector’s pieces you find on the back of the New York Times Book Review, these are books you can actually read. And many are bound handsomely enough that you would be proud to display them. We must find room to eat, so these will be going into our bookcases – but not before spending time with me in my study.

At this sale and others, I have noticed a lot of sets of books and series that were published in the late 1800s and early 1900s that you can find for ridiculously low prices, but which would make handsome additions to anyone’s libraries.

Here are five favorites that I have found recently and that you may want to keep an eye out for:

1. The Harvard Classics, published by F. Collier and Son in 1909. This is probably my favorite. The president of Harvard University had often said that the average American could obtain a good liberal education by reading 15 minutes a day from a collection of books that could fit on a five foot book shelf. They include the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith and The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.

2. The Colonial Press. Around 1900 this London and New York publisher began printing sets and series of books. I found a 16 volume set printed in 1901 that includes everything from The Federalist Papers and John Stewart Mills’ Political Economy to Turkish verse.

3. The Works of Washington Irving: A number of publishers produced sets of his work. We found two recently, from the late 1800s. I have been captivated by his Alhambra describing a journey he took in the early 1800s “among the Moors and Spaniards.”

4. The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. This set published by Houghton Mifflin in 1904 includes his lectures and essays.

5. Encyclopedia Britannica. When I was a child, I desperately wanted a set of encyclopedias, and I thought Britannica was the best. With the advent of the Internet and the fact that half a century of discoveries and reconsiderations of facts has occurred since these were printed, they are nearly worthless to many people. But I stubbornly bought a set I found recently. And I make a point of using it still.

The Old Man can be found teaching vocabulary to his gun dog in the back yard of the Old House and occasionally typing his ridiculous and profane thoughts on an old Underwood typewriter.

Okhakonkonhee

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By Saunro

People can experience history in many different ways: in the love of old treasures, through genealogy searches or simply by engaging in hours of The History Channel or A&E television shows.

As a native Floridian, I find great intrigue surrounding the history of where I live especially since my home has a history that goes back to our prehistoric origins.

I live on Crooked Lake at 122 feet above sea level (awesome for Florida) on what is known as the “ridge” or “backbone” of the state, a geographic feature created by the rise and fall of the sea levels over millions of years which allowed the ocean to squeeze mountain tops in the middle of a peninsula.

According to local history, the lake was originally named Okhakonkonhee, then Crooked Lake, then Caloosa before the shift back to Crooked Lake again.

Happy to say that I don’t live on Okhakonkonhee!

The Florida Seminoles hold a very special interest for me due to my Seminole great-grandmother and Crooked Lake was home to some Seminoles who engaged and traded with locals in the mid-1800s, before they were driven into the Everglades. It’s not hard to imagine just steps from our back door a camp of Seminoles full of people that hunted, fished and swam on Crooked Lake.

After the Seminoles, Northerners discovered Crooked Lake. The early pioneers came to escape the harsh winters, grow citrus, and establish townships. Before long Babson Park and Hillcrest Heights and a women’s college (now coed Webber University) sprung up along the shores of the lake.

As in most of Florida, the railroads, new towns and their businesses came and went. Freezes and hurricanes hampered but never defeated the citrus industry.

The Hillcrest Lodge, which featured the Minnetonka, a seagoing yacht docked at the lodge, came along in the 1920s and was popular with big-name guests including William Jennings Bryan, Bobby Jones and Babe Ruth. A Women’s Club was founded in 1923, and in 1933 residents were treated to a flyover by a Graf Zeppelin.

Today, life at Crooked Lake is quiet. The local wildlife: eagles, fox, sand hill crane, otter, raccoon, and alligators along with an occasional bobcat or panther coexist with the castles and cabins that embrace the lakeshore.

It’s been said that memories are the new history and every day I am happy that there are more of mine being made at history rich Crooked Lake!

Saunro is an independent thinker who refuses to be swayed by commercialism. She is living the good life in retirement at Crooked Lake, and she continues to volunteer as an animal and child advocate.