93. Goin’ to town and buyin’ the mantel

Mr. H.C. is famous for saying “Well, as Dad used to say…” and then he’ll pop off with some odd phrase, and nine times out of ten, my mom (or grandfather) said it too. It might be just old time country talk, or it might be real Greene County lingo, I’m not sure. But three of four of our parents were Greene County lifers (Clara always made sure to tell you that she was from California!) so this post is lovingly for them — and anyone else who loves the hollows, ridges, and idioms of Greene County.

Over a year ago we wandered into Jan’s Country Nook, a little hardware/antique/secondhand store on the main street of town. The window display drew us in — cast iron ash buckets, galvanized wash tubs, old tools, and a fireplace mantel — together with a jumble of other old and odd items led us into thinking that if we found any diamonds or rhinestones, they might not be too high. After all, we have champagne taste and a beer pocketbook.

We pooshed open the door, but nobody paid us any mind. Two old codgers in red and black plaid wool jackets and orange hunting caps were loudly discussing the pros and cons of the weather, and what it had to do with the price of eggs, and the salt situation in India. One was settin’ a spell on an upside down tub, and the other was leanin’ his elbow on a cluttered ledge. He was big enough to eat hay, and he crowded out the place.  Nearby was a small, thin lady with longish gray hair and a gravelly voice; she was puttin’ in her two cents as well. They both seemed to be hollering at the man who was sittin’ down; could have been he was deaf as a stump, or maybe he just had the flaps of his hat pulled over his ears.

Mr. H.C never met an old tool he didn’t like, and I was chompin’ at the bit for a galvanized washtub, so we were in hog heaven. The wood floor creaked as I walked down the right side, Mr. H.C walked down the left side and we met in the back of the store and conferred. There was a double washtub (on a stand!) but we allowed how it was in pretty bad shape, and Mr. H.C. can be tight-fisted with a dollar. We agreed it wasn’t worth the money, switched places, and moseyed up the other sides.

Old dolls, blue canning jars, and wooden Flexible Flyer sleds mingled with hard-to-find hardware items. Mr.H.C. bought some slotted brass screws that are scarcer than hen’s teeth these days. He was tickled pink to find them.

Mantel

I found this in the archives. Proof of the date of purchase and of the fireplace soot on the finish. We were keepin’ our fingers crossed that it just needed cleaned.

Neither of us can remember who saw it first, but Mr. H.C. is givin’ me credit. It was leaning against the wall and it looked like it had been around the barn once or twice. In fact, we’d been all around Robin Hood’s barn looking at mantels in other places — in the Burgh and in little Worshington — but all the ones we had seen were for the birds, and they were too pricey to boot. We had a rough opening measurement, but not exact, so after we had given it the once-over and allowed how it might do, we had to go back to Apple Hill to be sure it would fit. We told her we only lived down the road a piece, and we’d be back if the crick didn’t rise.

What we had to work with…

Well, we had to redd up the place to make room; the area around the fireplace looked like a cyclone had struck it. But we measured it twice and determined it would fit, so we high-tailed it back to the store.

Seventy-five dollars, firm.

Seventy-five dollars, firm.

I asked her if she would take $65, but she was firm. “The price is $75,” she said.

So we followed her back to the counter and settled up. She must have felt bad for not bargaining with us, so she gave us a handy dandy little 2013 calendar book and pen to make up for it, which I just found and threw away last week.

And to think we pert’near bought one for $150 at Construction Junction down in the city…

coal burning fireplace
The mantel pretty much looked like this for the last 11 months — collecting dust, odds & ends and serving as a tool shelf. All along I had planned on lightly sanding it and experimenting with Annie Sloan’s Chalk paint. I’ve read about it, watched You-tube videos and I was ready for the challenge. Then I added up how much it would cost. Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! It would have been a pretty penny, and we already talked about that beer pocketbook, and Mr. H.C. isn’t the only one who can be tightfisted with a dollar. As Joe would say, “We were feeling too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash.”

So for the next month I worked like a dog — I got paint in my hair and primer on my britches. I reckon I looked like the wild woman of Borneo. Here are some pictures of it getting fixed up…

I reckon I’m gonna try to make my own chalk paint sometime soon; I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about it, and I’ve heard tell all you need is some plaster of paris. And some paint. Wait till you see the dining room chairs…