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New Chair, Old Wire

April 30, 2017

Over the past few months, I have been working on an armchair. It is similar to the pair that I sold last Fall to my Aunt and Uncle in Virginia.

P1010997The originals had rope seats, as you can see in the picture. I had to buy the rope which I am not so keen on, and so when I ran out in the middle of making this seat, I tried a number of things instead. I attempted to weave using less rope in different patterns, but none was very satisfactory. I tried using twigs and rope, which worked, but I didn’t like the look. Then I tried a semi woven pattern using very heavy gauge copper wire. I have had the wire for years, but it is so stiff  (it is about 1/4″ in diameter) that it really hasn’t worked for anything in the past.

As I was struggling with the wire, it occurred to me for the first time since I found it that it is probably the wire that was originally used to electrify the barnyard. It hangs from very crude insulators on several trees and then drops to the ground, where it is buried under the leaf litter between several of the barns.

The farm has been in my family since the 1840’s, but my grandfather, Richardson White was the first one to try his hand as a farmer in the 1930’s. He built and/or oversaw the construction of several of the farm buildings (including an blacksmith shop, a tomato barn, a saw mill, horses stalls, and an ox barn – wherein I play furniture maker). This was in the early to mid 1930’s and this would have been just about when electricity would have been installed in these sorts of buildings for the first time.

My grandfather’s father also lived on the farm (at least he did in the summer) while working in Boston. He commuted by train when he was in Cohasset. The rest of the year he walked from his home on Marlborough street, Back Bay to his job at MGH every day. He had a couple phobias. On was a fear of burglaries, and apparently had multiple locks on his many doors. He was also frightened of the possibility of fire, particularly on the farm. I don’t know whether it was a relief when they replaced the gas fixtures in his house on the farm with electricity, but I do know that it did not end his concern. Even when he had his own family, my grandfather ate dinner with his father. My grandfather’s livelihood depended on rain, for sure, but also on sunny weather in abundance enough to dry out the hay he fed his livestock, to dry out the fields enough to plow, and to nurture the vegetables he trucked into Boston. Yet my father, Donald recalls my great grandfather dining with his family and exclaiming to one and all that, “what this country needs is a good soaking rain!” To which my grandfather could only grumble quietly to himself.  When I was a teenager.  I had a copper bracelet that I had bought in Northern Michigan.  While i was visiting my grandfather, someone asked what it was.  I explained that I only knew for sure what one of the symbols on it meant, rain.  My grandfather was kind enough to merely groan, but refrained from throwing it out the window.

So after decades transmitting electricity to the barnyard barns, some old copper wire is holding up a seat on a twiggy chair.  And I think once again on my good fortune getting to be a part of a long chain.



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