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.


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…

14. The Writing on the Wall

The best thing about living in a space where walls are crumbling and severely in need of repair is Writing On Them! For instance, at our advanced ages we seem to have memory short-outs quite frequently. This wall writing is very handy!

Just so we won’t forget to make it a 3-way switch…

The other day Mr. H.C. asked me if we had a chalkboard (I actually did find an old one of Clara’s) but I don’t know why I didn’t just tell him to write it on the wall. It isn’t like we haven’t already made mistakes. The stove was originally going to go in the far corner of the kitchen where the pantry wall was taken out. We measured, drew lines, and very carefully marked where the stove would be (in heavy carpenter pencil). Then we changed our minds. So now the writing on that wall is wrong. What do you do with that?

Erase? No, it won’t erase.

X-out? What, and draw attention to the fact that we can’t decide?

This just proves that reading the writing on the wall isn’t always accurate…

So the wrong writing is still there; I hope we don’t forget and put the stove there anyway…

It’s also very handy for keeping measurements–just so we don’t have to measure the same doorway or window more than 4 times:

But the best writing on the wall so far is actually on the ceiling — red chalk lines that will help us lay out the new bead-board ceiling,

This means we are actually getting close! (Mr. H.C. is installing an attic fan and the light brackets in the attic as I’m writing this.)

I have a history of wall-writing. One of my first memories is happily writing on the wall with crayons while I was supposedly taking a nap. I have blocked out what happened when I was found out, but the fact that I remember it at all makes me think it was traumatic. Maybe the first time I got in trouble and remembered about it?

20120713-214625.jpgMuch later, middle sister and I were getting ready to put wallpaper in our bedroom. It was bright orange and yellow and red flowers — must have been around 1966 or 67– and it looked eerily like the wallpaper on our bedroom now, here at the cottage.
We were painting the wall before we wallpapered it; I surely don’t remember why. Mom gave us permission to do graffiti on the wall before she papered over it. I painted several Nazi swastikas on it. I was just a kid and had no idea of the import of this symbol. When Mom came in and saw what I had done, she was horrified — her only brother had been killed in France during the war. She made us paint over them. “But we’re wallpapering over it,” I pointed out. She was shouting now. “I will not have someone finding these symbols fifty years from now on my house!” Of course, now I understand her rage perfectly. (Diane, am I remembering this right? I’m claiming full responsibility here because I can’t remember the extent of your involvement…)

A few years later, my boyfriend — he was called Mike back then — and I wrote our initials on the inside of a covered bridge on the Lippencott Road not far from where the cottage is now. We went back after we were married –30 or so years later — to see if they were still there.

The inside of the bridge had been painted and we couldn’t find any initials, but then, we weren’t even sure if it was the right bridge…(There are 7 covered bridges in Greene County–you can find information about them here.) And from reading this website, I’ve discovered its real name–The Lippencott-Cox Farm bridge.
So there must be a place on these three acres where we can paint or carve our initials inside a heart on our 10th anniversary (coming up in August). I’m thinking maybe The Gazebo, or one of our very tall trees. Might have to go get some spray paint…