Allen Baker's Bolton Watt beam engine. Courtesy of Carl C. Kinnaman, 1769 - 24th Street, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio 44223.
Yesterday I cleaned my writing house. It was a mess! Consequently, when I rose from my bed this morning, I could immediately find paper on which to write this column. What a relief! There was a time during yesterday's melee when my bed was laden with such an unbelievable bunch of 'stuff' that I felt ill in my mid-section. It was falling off of the edges! But now I know where my things are on which I want to start, and I'll get some work done. Hallelujah!
Oh! How I wish I was more organized! That is I think I wish it! There are some people who are so organized they become a bit unbearable. I've often wondered if they even make love by appointment. I'd surely hate my kisses that way!
For me it has always been the spur of the moment things that have put dash into life an unexpected caller, finding the right dress when I wasn't shopping for one, a morning poem coming on me while I was struggling with a sink full of dishes, and so many other instances.
I suppose that finding the middle road between over-planning and spontaneity is a test of living we have to face. It is probably a part of being a whole person. But how hard it is to gather the enthusiasm to accomplish a task such as yesterday's labor. I had to promise myself I would get that 'stuff' off of my bed by night, and place it where it belonged, or not go to bed at all. Moving a metal cupboard didn't help, believe me! Everything had to come out or I couldn't budge it.
To keep or not to keep? To be gentle and encumbered, or ruthless and bereft? So many hand-autographed books! So many memories of Writer's Conferences! What is one to do? We've largely given up taking pictures. They only end up in a box in a forgotten drawer. The next generation is busy at that now, therefore grandchildren's pictures are being added to my 'stuff'. And these are especially nice, of course, along with all the rest of it.
And now there is another problem. If I don't label all our snapshots and pictures soon, the growing generation won't even know who Great Uncle Ben was and maybe they could care less. They will get enough of their own 'stuff'. Who knows what to do? I'm sure I don't.
Somehow there is a nostalgia about old things that we seem to need. They give us a continuing sense of belonging to both the past, the present, and the future. For as we look at old things, we can visualize a former generation living and working with them. We see our ancestors molding a future while living in the present. And now they bring to us the past, in review.
I admit feeling sadness at burning some of the past in our fireplace. It at least deserved a dignified burning. I couldn't carry it out in any old plowed field. But there were just too many scraps of what had been and I was getting covered up by the past. We can't live in a museum for this is today! And today has a right to existence as well!
This morning's sun has just arisen to make a delightful day. It is beautiful, and its light is streaming across my bed. I am back in my bed, writing, long hand. I can't think and type at the same time, not this early in the day. The past of yesterday's upheaval is gone. The sad part is that it will all begin to accumulate again, unless I am very careful. But can one be careful enough? For all of us have experienced throwing away something which we haven't used for several years, and then wanting it within a week. I once had a dear neighbor who said that we collected so much during the first half of our lives, that it took the second half of our lives to take care of it. She was so right.
During my sorting and cleaning yesterday I found a sacka paper sack. The name printed on it was Live Steam Museum, Route 1, Box 11 A, Alamo, Texas 78516. But the proprietor of this place also has a paying venture. He is a shipper of fresh citrus fruits. If you want to patronize a man who is doing a great work of keeping the past alive, order some fruit from Tommy Tompkins. It is luscious and carefully and attractively packed. The orange juice we drank there was something to remember. And it was February which made it so special.
When we first spied Tommy Tompkins he was busy packing oranges, wearing his glasses so he might accurately lay aside any inferior fruit. Among his antiques, inside and out, were a Case traction engine and a Peerless Portable 8 H. P. steam engine built in 1896. This had a smoke stack which folds down, and a special seat up front from which the driver guided his horses. I managed to crawl up on that seat and have my picture taken. 'Twas'nt easy!
When Mr. Tompkins finished his packing he told me of a special project he has going which will require a new building to house it. It is a marine engine from a World War II Liberty Ship. The engine is 25 ft. in height, 25 ft. long, 15 ft. wide. He mentioned something about 2500 horse power. THAT is a lot of horses!
In the office of the Live Steam Museum were some of Mr. Tompkin's own special possessions. A huge parachute hung from the ceiling in billowing folds. He had several pictures of Wiley Post on the walls, along with the pictures of the outfit to which I assume Mr. Tompkins belonged. Had I taken down more information, I'd have more to give you. But I suggest, rather, that you go see for yourself. Or you may want to invest in the non-profit corporation he told me of. He is issuing $100.00 promissory notes, which pay no interest. These will be repaid out of admissions and donations for viewing this marine engine, plus his other things from the past.
Isn't it a great thing when a man does something to make people happy in such a wholesome way? And he isn't seeking for a large profit. So in your travels give Mr. Tompkins the boost of your interest. You will like it there. So long and God bless you among your 'stuff'!