When in Rome ...

Editor Leslie McDaniel starts her old iron collection with a hay carrier

Leslie C. McDaniel

Leslie C. McDaniel

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A confession: I am not a collector. I like to throw things away. That said, my house is home to several collections, though most have family ties (my grandmother's thimbles, my father's pipes), or belong to my husband (old string instruments, beautifully restored) or my kids (rocks, bottles, baseball cards). I do have a weakness for a water pitchers of a particular line of pottery, and have accumulated an impressive number of those. But no old iron ... until this summer. 

This summer, while rooting around an antique store, I came upon a hay carrier. I'd been wanting to dabble in farm collectibles, and the carrier – a classic example of form and function – seemed a good starting point.

The shop owner had so long ago given up hope of selling this pile of rust that it had been put to work as a support for some larger item. I think she begrudged the fact that a customer would have the gall to purchase part of the shop's infrastructure, but money – even the small sum she named – talks.

My companions were somewhat less than enthusiastic about my purchase. One rolled his eyes; the other just shook his head and asked "What are you going to do with that?" (Why is it that whenever you find some really wonderful old thing, there's always some hall monitor-type nearby asking '"What are you going to do with that?" as if every object in the house must be as practical as a washing machine or a shower head?)

"Well," I said, in an attempt to convince them that my purchase was part of some master plan, "I'm going to put it on the deck."

"That'd be great," my husband said, "if we had a deck."

Some call it daydreaming. I call it planning. I'm visualizing; isn't that what athletes are coached to do? "Picture yourself breaking through the tape at the end of the race ..." Sooner or later, there's going to be a deck, and when that day arrives, my hay carrier will be ready.

Well, maybe not "ready", exactly. I'm following the lead of many collectors I've visited with: like a good batch of soup, I'm told, old iron ages well. So for now, my carrier sits in the garage, gathering dust (and curses from those who trip over it). I don't feel any particular urgency to act: Later, I'll decide whether to leave it as is, or restore and paint it. I'm even thinking about looking for another one or two, maybe making a modest display ... I'm new at this "lust for rust", but I may be getting the hang of it! FC