With a large family present at an auction today on an old farm in southwestern Wisconsin, bids ran high as the immediate family and nieces and nephews tried to win an item tied to their memory of the 97-year-old woman who enriched their lives. The woman and her Swedish husband bought the farm in 1944. They raised eight children in the house. But, she spent the last 18 years living on the farm alone.
A neat white house sat in a circle of barns, sheds and out-buildings, all empty now. There were vintage tractors, implements, fencing, and thousands of parts and tools left on trailers and in the beds of pick-up trucks. Old members of the woman’s flower garden wave slightly in the breeze on this off and on blue day.
I am, being a woman, mostly interested in the life of the woman of the farm. A granddaughter shows me the site of her kitchen garden. I can see the grey poles that once held up the clothesline.
There are four apple trees, two grape arbors, a large cherry tree, a stand of raspberry bushes and, I am sure, there were rhubarb plants at one time. A granddaughter tells me that her grandmother made apple butter, apple sauce and apple pies, but she rarely used the cherries. Hundreds of blue canning jars with zinc lids sold. A Victorian cherry pitter comes up for bids. It is a big black cast iron affair and I wonder if the work involved merited cherry jam.
The heirs got most of the treasures they wanted and that is right. I heard a young woman with a baby say to her husband, “Don’t let your emotions make you lose your head.” The weathered, but sturdy, outhouse sold for 215.00.
People who come to my shop often tell me that the shop has a good energy or good feeling inside. I think that comes from all the things inside the shop that were part of some wonderful person’s life. Each piece has its own story; its own interesting past.
My winnings of the blue glass jars will, no doubt, be upcycled into candle holders, light fixtures, snow globes or something else an imaginative person creates. I will keep one just because I like the sparkly blue glass and each time I look at it, I will remember the sweet, old-fashioned smell of hundreds of heirloom apples lying beneath the mother tree.