Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A New England Pictorial Flask
























When I …purchased "a historical flask" (described in the Old Antiques Store post) using the money from my fruit jar sale and the twenty dollar gift from my grandmother, in the fall of my seventh grade year, I realized the end of a two year trail and held that end in my hand. The trail began in fifth grade when I went, one Saturday morning, to the public library and encountered a newly placed glass display case set up in the lobby housing several antiques on display including a half pint cornucopia and urn American (New England) pictorial flask. I was entranced by the display and the case but was smitten with the flask. There was a vague label ("Historical Flask Bottle") with a local man's name as the lender. That's not what smittened me. It was the …thing. It wasn't, to my eye, a "bottle". It was lying flat on its side; turtle shaped, turtle size and turtle colored but made of glass and had a raised decoration on the visible side of a cornucopia. I stared at it and then viewed it from adjusted angles about the case. I did this for weeks. And weeks. I understood the object was "glass" and "old". I was entranced by it. Defining my entrancement in hide sight, it was the "glass", the color of this glass, the raise decoration that had been clearly and cleverly molded onto this once soft glass and that this same glass was now hard and brittle but one could still "feel" the molten elasticity in the molded decoration. Further, the form DID look like the box and painted turtles I found all the time only this was "OLD" "GLASS". I was smitten,

As a fifth grader, "FINDING OUT" about this "THING" was a long research road that ended up with the unsatisfactory position of… "FINDING OUT" the "what this is"… in a big thick book that …only had a tiny little drawing way in the back of it… among similar "flasks" and crummy black and white pictures of other "old flasks"… but not one like this one and … never getting nearer to the actual "IT" than rubbing my nose on the glass case… which disappeared after six months… and… enhancing this research by not mentioning to anyone my smitten entrancement. I don't even know how I found out about "the book" which was (and still is) the basic classic reference to American Historical and Pictorial Flasks: George P. and Helen McKearin, AMERICAN GLASS, Crown, NY, 1941. (One may easily find a copy of this classic reference.)


There was a brief blank period of… no flask in the library - research over. THEN …at the old antique shop (see post of that title)… an IDENTICAL FLASK appeared for sale for $65.00. AND I could handle it… all over… without ANY restrictions and even freely talk about it and KEEP ON handling it over and over and KEEP ON talking about it EACH and every time I went there. My learning curve LEAPED forward for the handling and the talking yielded a great deal of true facts about the "thing" and …deep, deep, deepest deep "feel" for the object. I was not only smittened and entranced but INFORMED… very quickly. Then, one day, the fruit jar saga took place and …wham - bang… the flask was in my bedroom.


This old bottle, correctly called a cornucopia and urn half pint American pictorial flask in olive green bottle glass, numbered GIII-7 mold pattern by McKearin and made in New England at either a Connecticut or New Hampshire glassworks between 1820 and 1835… still smittens and entrances me to this day.


For others… it does not.


Most of the others are "bottle" or "flask" collectors who consider this flask mold pattern and therefore all of the flasks made in this mold to be… very, very, very, very, VERY common. So common do they commonly consider it's 'so common' to be common that the flask, today as I write is a …nothing. Traveling up the cash value scale in the past forty years to a high of about $150., the flask has fallen back to a "findable at" price of my original $65.00 and even… fifty bucks. Most often one finds them "kicking around" in an antiques shop for "$125.00" and …not going anywhere fast. And that's it.


THAT LAST means that outside of the collector community …that is fully jaded… the little flask has no following. None. Except in old New England homes filled with old New England things that have "always been there" and "show good taste". Either one "knows" what it is or… does not. The latter means, in most cases, not even noticing it. To my eye it is STILL "HOW CAN ANYONE not NOTICE IT?". Even as I write this …with a specimen next to me… I ponder "HOW" can anyone NOT be… smittened and entranced.


The brittle molded glass; light, and so elastically formed yet now HARD. The deep dirty but …crispy clear… green color… caused by heating molten glass with firewood in the New England woods. The mold blown decorative process… used in the New England woods second to it's …only… first usage… by the Romans. The lost-forever- NONCHALANCE- make of the single flask, one of thousands of surviving examples… by a glass blower MAN… who puffed one small controlled breath down his blowpipe to form a bubble of molten glass… and his BOY who closed that bubble in an iron mold. Then the MAN raised the raw molded flask from the mold. The BOY attached an iron "pontil rod" to it's bottom (with molten glass) and the MAN snipped the molded glass free from the blowpipe. The BOY "fire polished" this jagged …top lip of the flask by… sticking the flask (top lip first) back into the furnace "for a second" and then "finished" by… breaking the pontil rod off with a pop. The BOY turned to find the MAN ready with another bubble of glass ready for the mold. They did this all day, every day. The finished flasks were peddled and sold by the dozen as "general purpose containers" to …anyone who would buy any. They were then filled with anything and just about everything and … sold, used and… NOT thrown out due to their very, very obvious positive art qualities that are best summarized as "I LIKE IT". The abundant and therefore "common" qualities of this cornucopia and urn half pint flask are due to the abundant number made and the …"I like it" preservation of the flask… ever after… in old New England homes.


Discover all of this oneself, hunt one of these… glass turtles… down, buy it, handle it and keep it around. The positive art qualities, the old glass qualities, the legacy qualities and the simple "I like it" will last you the rest of your life and return all of your cash outlay in cultural and art discovery. If one is interested in early New England decorative arts, this old glass object is an open door into learning about them. As a single decorative glass object… in the New England home… one sends a knowing message when one displays this …very proper, very subtle and very classic New England pictorial flask.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Anything You Want


Baxter, a local picker, came into the yard last week; early afternoon and a day before the snow storm, with… five pick-up truck loads… he'd purchased from a long closed up colonial cape. I collected his story of the purchase during the delivery of the truck loads to our warehouse. He wouldn't let me go to the house until after the final load the following morning. Baxter is always coming around and first appeared in this blog with his pickle bottle find. Since then he's come around trying to find Mrs. Abbott's' chair but that's another story. I have tried to capture Baxter's purchase story just the way Baxter …spoke it… to me:

“I’M IN THERE NOW BY CRACKEY! I (Baxter) said.


"Actually I just said it to myself and made no noise. And very slowly pushed the first interior door forward.
Crackey by DAM-mit I been watch’en THIS ONE TEN YEARS plus. Lucky that’s all.


"I was coming out of one of the stores when this old bag caught me and wanted to know where “HE WAS” and pointed at the usually always open Old Books For Sale store next to the store I just popped out of with the “I JUST SOLD THAT” check in hand. I was leaving; going back to the sea of ANTIQUARIAN HUNT.
“Don’t know.” I said noting the no sign on the door saying WHEN I’LL BE BACK that he usually does. Crackey. So I said it was real unusual for him to NOT be open and to be closed NOW without a SIGN.
“Do you think he went to lunch?”
“Could have. But he usually leaves a sign”.


Bingo came next for one of the girls from another store down the street come out and lit up and started gesturing me so I went down leaving the old bag in front of the used book store. I add that by now I had found out she’d come to sell her books. Down the street I got bingo because the girl says “You know his mother just died”.
“Died?”
“About an hour ago. He was almost crying when he told me”
I turned back up the street to the old bag and said “I FOUND OUT WHERE HE IS! He’s gotta a good excuse.”
“BETTER BE!” she yelled back.
“His mother died.”
“Mother died?”
“Really. About an hour ago”
“Really?”
“Really.”
“That is a good excuse”.
“Devine intervention”.

So then we talked a minute and I looked at the books in her trunk and told her I didn’t want the books and she wanted some money so I hooked her to talking her house and I knew where the house was and I knew the neighborhood and suddenly had that mental light bulb that BELOW HER was THAT PLACE. So I said that. And she said yes. DID SHE OWN THAT? Yes. Want to let me in THERE?
“SURE”.


That simple after all these years. Of course I never could figure out how to get into there since it was abandoned with no clear access and hung on a ledge above the water with no dock. I had the NEVER FIGURED SHE’D OWN THAT since her “home” was uphill by a near acre. But she DID own it. So we went there. In tandem, parking at her “HOME” and me expressly clear that NO I DON’T WANT TO GO IN THERE (her home) since it looked like “NO HOPE” for a rare antique in neglect in there ever since I’d been eyeing it (her actual house) TEN YEARS AGO. Or longer.


And there was no trail down the hill. NOTHING. Just a slopping over grown acre with some rusted remnants and a distant back door, a roof line of an 18th century center chimney cape UNTOUCHED and the cold Prussian blue of the river above that. Two windows though; 12 over 8 with the wavy old panes. “Original.” I said to myself. And early. Suddenly here I was going down to it, ALL BY MYSELF, after all those years with the “LET ME KNOW IF YOU see ANYTHING YOU WANT”. I dropped the case of the “see” from her “SEE” squawk for I was using the words “GET IT NOW”.


Can’t mess around when you hit the beach on D-Day and I’m going into that home. House? Home. Dead in the water it be for the past sixty-eighty-one hundred twenty years? “Yep” but still a home and the back door; the original back door, opened in without a fuss. Opened right in like it should for they never open out and into the fresh deep snow like they make’em now. “Ho, ho” and on to a dirt floor headed straight for the next door with a wood shed pile to my right. That’s in the dark for the one window is nearly covered. I stop and scan. I see wood pile with pile-on on top; old boards/boxes/bags/rope/wire/clutter affirming the SOMETHING-GOOD-IN-THERE look. Onward.


The next door is where I opened (this vignette) and BY CRACKEY I’m in there. Door opens in again and RIGHT up front the late morning light truly CASCADES in the two front windows to show me:

The plain wide pine floor.
The wainscot walls and piled up against it cram (noun).
The side window covered over with pile up.
The chairs and tables pushed back to the wall under the pack.
The traps, rope, boxes, buckets, floats, wire and heavy cotton duck
Gray from the mildew and salt,.
Mounded on top of the this and that,
All routed by a clear trail up the inner wall
To the front
There it turns left to the front door.

That’s all fisher/lobster/clammer gear; the piled on top. No problem for it ain’t in active use and be old enough to sell. Also there’s only enough for a one/two man endeavor; a small rig. AND:
My eye has moved on to THE TABLE just enough forward in the stack. JUST enough forward to have been paint-can-rest-on-it while “I PAINT” the floats and any other of the gear. THAT left about fourteen white enamel rings in the right fore corner on the top of a (not quite) knock out Hepplewhite taper leg bread board end totally original old red TAP TABLE.


I step to that and “good height” and skip my eyes around and don’t see any more cash cows so up to the front with a “look out the window at the river” glance and then to the front entry with front door closed but not locked and I open THAT inward and:


So suddenly that the light blinds me, the river breeze kicks me, the cold snaps me and the vista halts me. I am standing right out on the door sill with no more steps down and a ten footsteps to the ledge edge where the MIGHTY KENNEBECK FLOWS. The dock is gone. But did this place have river access or WHAT!

Blink, blink my eyes and then close the door and blink, blink again turning to find the anticipated boxed stairs up to the UP and so UP to a door again opening in and there I find dark turning dim with four panes of glass away at each end, the brick of the exposed center chimney to my front and a scattering of piled crud down both sides of the close quarters, unfinished “upstairs” and “UNDER THE EVES” of this “gotta be 1760’s” HOME. The rafters are pole logs with the bark still on ‘em. “Probably cut right here”. In 1750. The crud “LOOKS GOOD ENOUGH”. There’s a single small rope bed partially apart; a “hired man’s bed”. There a 1840’s one drawer stand. And crud. “GOOD ENOUGH” and back down stairs.


Into the adjoining front room. That door is partially open. More fishing stuff. Not too much and just piled around and two cheap 1880s oak pieces of furniture. Probably been more of that but “carried off” (stolen) “over the years”. Them takers rarely take the early stuff for it "don’t look antique”. Back through this room to the door at it’s rear. I don’t pay any attention to the giant fireplace; the original kitchen, nor the widows shedding shaded light. A wood stove pipe hole had been cut into the over mantle. The 18th century woodwork is natural finish; never painted. “JUST GREAT” but not likely something I’m gonna try and get. There’s an 1840’s drop-leaf table next to the door.


I open that door back on to me; see the step, am on dirt again and into another dim room with one window but whitewashed. Sparse, neat and tended this room shows only wall shelves with a here and there on ‘em and not much else except the AURA of I having just stepped into the UNTOUCHED “milk room” or “buttery" of old and I stop to take that in. A door to the right was once a window. That door is open. Beyond it an old ONE HOLE outhouse. It leans back; pulling, as a whole building, away from the main home. “Butted on” (literally) about Civil War. The bright light from the pulled-away crack obscures my view of the one-hole interior.


I leave. I go all the way around and back out the woodshed door. Total time elapsed has gotta be ten and no more than fifteen minutes since I left the TRUCK CAB. Up the hill, sun bringing the warm on my back. KNOCK on the door. Lady comes. I stand at the door:


“TWO fifty; TWO HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS for IT.” I take out the wade of money from my front jacket pocket and hold it out. “What I want down there: There’s wood and crap and fishing stuff. Clammers used it. THE FIREWOOD TOO! I want that. TWO FIFTY for what I WANT.”[1]
“Two hundred and fifty dollars. For in there?”
“Probably four truck loads. Maybe five with the firewood.”
“You’ll pay two hundred fifty for it?”
“Yes. Cash. Now and get it out. Probably can’t get it ALL today but most of it.”
She looks at me; my face. Then the wad of money. “It’s yours. Anything you want.”
[2][3]

[1] Baxter's commentary on this purchase offering: "I could put a whole damn page about what’s going on here but do I need to? Keep it simple and FAST. No words like “HEPPLEWHITE” but lots of words like “FIRE WOOD” and “CRUD”. NO TIME SPENT dolling up what you see; SEE IT, MOVE ON, SEE MORE, ACT. Act means say concisely what you’ll pay based on one’s gut of how little be a “configure”, (while your moving onward) that one will the “has to pay” (can get away with LOW), show ‘em the damn cash and LEAP. Leap like a man. Or say home and watch TV if you ain’t got the right stuff; fear landing in the river and “LOOSING IT ALL”.

[2] The table? He got it out in the first load. Carried it up the hill on the second trip, by plan. Put it up-side-down in the back, piled the first load on top of it.

[3] In all five loads; four that afternoon, one to "get the firewood" the next morning with an extra “go back with you” go over the whole place to be sure nothing is left. Baxter is right in not "bringing you there" until he has finished for "anything can happen at any time" to "screw the deal".

Friday, September 16, 2016

Roughshod - Part One - "I Like"


Roughshod

Part One

"I Like"



            This is not about horses, riding, horseshoes, horseshoe nails or protruding horseshoe nails left protruding to gain traction.  It is not about traction.  Something has already gained traction and this does not need protruding nail heads to enhance its traction.
            This is about lines in the sand that are drawn by a roughshod traction that has been gained by first drawing a sand line and then stepping over that line in the sand to establish a next line in the sand with these lines being a ‘that may be denoted to be’ roughshod sand line; a line in the sand with figurative nail heads left protruding
            To gain traction.
            Stepped away from, it is a moving figurative sense of ordered direction that advocates a ‘roughshod’ way of discerning
            “Antiques”.
            This essay is about antiques and the roughshod directives of discerning them.  It is about old New England antiques and the effect of roughshod lines in the sand with protruding nail heads that have gained traction to...
            To what?
            To destroy them (old New England antiques).





            One may go to museums and see them; the destroyed old New England antiques, arranged in room settings.  The Concord Museum in Concord, Mass. has some.  The MET in New York has many.  No one goes
            To see them.
            Don’t tell me you do.  You don’t.  You visit the lines in the sand... with traction from protruding nail heads.  When you see that you feel you can do that ‘at home’ “too”.  You can.  You do.  It does look just like that; lines in the sand with protruding nail heads to gain traction that have all been... “done”... by... you.
            The ‘what that means’; the ‘result’, is that... you are over there doing that and the old New England antiques are over here doing
            Nothing...
            In their room setting displays that show a semblance of assembled historic design order purposely gathered to demonstrate lines in the sand of ... old New England antiques and their heritage (historic context)... too.  In most cases one has to pay admission to ‘get in’ to ‘see’.  That is not a roughshod line in the sand (paying admission).  It is a ‘way you do this’; “SEE” old New England antiques.  Do not worry that if one should “go see” a room setting displayed in a museum that one will be crowded out.  No... you will not be... crowded out.






            For myself... I find myself... “left alone”.  When I am viewing collected and arranged room settings of New England antiques.  In museums.  That I paid admission to view.  Many times... I have viewed the same museum room setting... many (“any time I’m going by”) times and... have yet to encounter “anyone else”.  There.  Fine; I like that.
            I expect that.
            I do.
            Don’t start a ‘going there’ because of me.
            Anyway... you’d fumble it.  Maybe not... if you “LIKE”... “BOUGHT” a modestly expensive BOOK about the room settings and the objects in them “IN” the museum’s room setting collection and
            READ IT
            BEFORE
            And after
            “YOU WENT” (the restrooms are down the hall on the RIGHT).







            So... noting the above, no wonder that you can ‘do that’ yourself in your house and having it come out looking like
            You did that (destroyed them).
            Old New England antiques.
            Yeah that’s what you did:  You brought in a ‘chest’ you ‘like’ and ‘found’ and have no idea what, as an object of design “IT IS” or any sense of it ‘relative’ to any other chest OR room setting OR place in New England heritage... OR New England history at all except that you have announced that you “LIKE IT” and
            Have no notion that it is, at best, a crummy piece of used furniture
            AND YOU HAVE IT ON DISPLAY
            TOO.
            (Roughshod with protruding horseshoe nails to gain traction).




            The chest (of drawers) you “found” gains traction?  It does.  You “add to it”
            “I collect antiques”.
            “SEE?”
            “I see what I see and SEE THEN
            That I can
            See too when
            I CAN too
            Then.”
            It is potpourri and smells like that too.  It is devastating.  VERY neatly ‘professionally framed’ “I PICKED THEM OUT” arranged wall decoration containing
            Absolutely nothing (the framed object has no merit of art, antique, design, history or heritage) yet you smile at them:  “I did that” (framed and wall hung your emptiness).
            May you imagine how many houses I am “insisted” I go in to... “oh”.  The buffet in the dining room is full of glass and china objects and sets of objects that are, in total and ‘to say the least’, not easy to sell at yard sales and flea markets yet obsessively displayed as a something;
            Not a nothing.
            The buffet would be better shown EMPTY?  No; the buffet is ‘so bad too’ that “It should go... too”.  And does not.  No... they “STAND” full of that crap in the same dining room pose for sixty-five years... until a ‘someone’ “hauls” it “away”.
            No one ever knows anything about anything ‘in there’ ever; during the
            “Whole Time”.
            The ‘whole life’ goes by with the “same crud”.  Not a spark of critical sense; a notice of critique, is ever studied ... upon the whole... “in there”.  Yes that includes the set of four ‘bridge chairs’ and their ‘folding card table’ “stored” “in the garage” after they were “bought at the...
            Stored.
            “WE NEVER USE THEM”.




            YOU ARE USING THEM... as a display object displayed in place (their ‘room setting’) to convey (state) your ‘sense’ of ...ah... ‘design’ in the ...your old New England... no...:
            It is simply “YOUR HOUSE” “IN” “NEW ENGLAND”
            It (the house, the décor and its decorator) is a... ‘squatter’.
            Roughshod.





            Now that is not very much fun is it.  Why don’t you take all that crud outside onto the lawn and sell it (a “yard sale”).  No... you cannot.  The... ah... “HOUSE” would be “EMPTY”.  So come in from the rear.  Carefully travel about seeking a single old New England antique.  Established antiquarians do not expect you to ‘know one’ ‘if you saw one’.  Understand that.  Then apply that:  They will help you.  This (traditional New England decorative taste) is not about what you like.  It is about classic New England decorative taste as traditionally found in traditional New England homes in traditional New England home room settings as best shown by establish museum collections of traditional New England decorative arts often time arranged and displayed in room settings for
            You
            To
            Study.
            And then... “START”.








            With one “THING” and with that being a one thing that you ...collected... with the understanding that it is a traditional New England ‘antique’ of certain recognized (by museum collections) New England decorative design merit.  Starting simple... perhaps a classic ‘Boston area’ “D top” ‘Hepplewhite (American Federal 1790-1820) “card table”.  One table:  One thing.  A real thing in “original condition” (not “repaired, faked, made up”.  Just a real antique).  Tables like this ARE “around” and “FOR SALE”.  Their current prices are ‘modest’ if not actually “cheap” due to the
            Lackluster interest for them.  Most New England homes do not ‘know what one is’ or know too... that it is a classic furniture fixture of the old New England home.
            Either.
            It (these tables) is not past a line in the sand of roughshod nail headed tractioned collecting commonly titled “I like antiques”
            Antiques in the old New England homes are not about what “I like”.  “It’s about what museums like”.  They like old New England culture.  That last word again:  Culture.







Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Shed Door Is Open






























"WHOA! WHOA! Whoa, whoa, whoa! BACK UP! THAT SHED DOOR IS OPEN! ….I ain't ever seen it open in twenty years… BACK UP! … GOOD!" said Lane (Lane Copper) and he got out of the truck.
We were coming down the mountain into an interior Maine village after a house-call-gone-bad …back up the mountain. Lane regularly takes me "on a call". Only about half ever produce purchased antiques. BUT I do get to spend the day riding around in the middle of nowhere with Lane AND do, half of the time, "buy something". Today's call… they "didn't want to sell". We headed home. We'd gone about four miles.
As I got out of the truck Lane was already rapping on the shed's door frame with his fist and yelling into the shed doorway "HEY ANYONE IN THERE ANYONE HI? IT'S LANE COPPER COMING BY THIS MORNING AND I GOT A FELLA HERE FROM THE COAST BUYING OLD TRUCK TODAY I SEE YOU GOT SOME TO SELL HE'S PAYING CASH!". An older man; an "old duff" (Lane's term) back in the shed started to appear from that interior looking just as blasted as you the reader after having that verbal barrage land upon him. He appeared to be putting away some cans of white house paint. "SELLING ANYTHING? YOU GOT ENOUGH I SEE!" Then "COME UP HERE!" he yelled to me waving his… old and ripped safety orange hunting sweatshirt covered arm… at me even though I WAS "here" and leaning hard on the door frame with the other arm while… the old duff kept coming to that door. "YOUR FULL AS MARTHA WASHINGTON'S ATTIC IN HERE SO LETS DO AH THIN'EN OUT… Jesus… CAN'T EVEN GET IN… DAMN TOOLS. HOW MUCH FOR THOSE?"
"I not selling THOSE" the duff said looking hard at Lane. " I USE THOSE. Do I know you?"
"THAT OLD TROUGH. TWO YEARS AGO. I BOUGHT THAT FROM YOU." shouted Lane.
"Trough?"
"BOUGHT IT CASH SHOW HIM YOUR MONEY!" he says turning to me. I promptly displayed a roll of cash with a rubber band around it… that… JUST HAPPENED to pop off right then… and… the cash dropped to the ground and… started to spread like …blowing leaves. "JESUS!" said Lane and started to grab twenty dollar bills including TWO right down in front of the duff as HE started to bend for them. "SEE HE GOT CASH WE'RE PAYING CASH FOR TRUCK LET'S SEE WHAT YOU WILL SELL HOW ABOUT THAT BASKET TWO DOLLARS CASH!"
"I USE that basket. My SEED basket."
"HOW ABOUT THAT ONE TWO DOLLARS"
"That one's BROKE! See. HOLE in the bottom."
"TWO DOLLARS".
"Two dollars? …You have that one."
"GIVE HIM CASH!"
I did.
"FOUR FOR THAT CHAIR!" pointing to a chair sitting on a bale of hay.
"No. I sit in that.
"UP THERE on the HAY? YOU AH CHICKEN? WELL TWO DOLLARS FOR THAT ONE NO ONE'S SITS IN THAT!"
"I used to… when I was a kid." The old duff said looking at a chair lying on it's side on a woodpile in front of a window. "Two… for that one… ….well … I guess so… take it"
"PAY HIM CASH!" Lane said to me pulling the chair off the woodpile. He set it outside the shed. Another basket fell off of the woodpile when he did this, along with a couple of cardboard boxes. He'd already handed me the first basket and it was on the ground behind me headed toward the truck. "ANOTHER BASKET TWO DOLLARS FOR THAT ONE TOO" Lane shouted. The duff picked up the basket, looked it over and handed it to Lane. I handed the duff two dollars. The duff looked at the, now, six dollars cash in his hand, squared it, folded it, put it in his shirt pocket and… looked up at Lane who immediately said "NOW THOSE WOODEN CRATES ONE DOLLAR EACH FOR AS MANY AS YOU SELL ME". The duff turned to the stack of crates just visible in the dim light back in the shed. We all stepped toward them… inside the shed.

An hour and one hundred and forty-seven dollars "CASH!" later we were …headed back down the mountain again only this time the truck was full. Lane was happy. Happy, HAPPY, happy; "a day's pay". "GIVE ME SUMP-THUN GIVE ME SUMP-THUN GIVE ME SUMP-THUN GIVE ME SUMP-THUN!" he was saying like he always does. I started handing him twenty dollar bills from my shirt pocket… as I drove. "THAT'S NUFF!" he said "You GOTTA MAKE SUMP-THUN DIDN'T DRIVE UP HERE FOR FREE GOOD DAY THOUGH… GOOD DAY YOU KNOW WHAT I'M KEEP'EN DON'T YOU TELL JAMES (James Hutton, the antiques dealer Lane is suppose to work for) YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS I'M KEEP'EN YOU DON'T TELL… YOU'LL GET IT ANYWAY AFTER I DONE LOVE'EN IT JAMES DON'T WANT IT IT'S BROKEN AIN'T IT A COCKER NO ONE ALIVE EVER BEEN IN THAT SHED IF THAT IN THERE NO ONE ALIVE I THE FIRST ONE WATCHED THAT DOOR TWENTY YEAR I TELL YOU NEVER SEEN IT OPEN.
One should be able to deduce that a day with Lane is a real antiques hunter's day. He found a decorated redware pie plate in the shed. Early (1820 or earlier), very authentic and having a very old and early chip out of it, he'd grabbed it right up and made me pay the "ONE DOLLAR BROKEN TOO BAD". He will keep that a year or two. Please notice that regardless of what one may feel toward Lane, he not only knows the antiques well but truly loves them.




Monday, September 12, 2016

Careless and Callous - Accumulation of Inherited (Antiquarian) Art - Part Five - "Ample"


Careless and Callous:

Accumulation of Inherited (Antiquarian) Art

Part Five

"Ample"



            I do not
            Worry about it
            Much
            Anymore:
            The “keep”
            Or the abandonment
            Of inherited (antiquarian) art
            In the home.

            The pattern is established to my eye and the formula of that pattern has been shown to you (Parts One through Four) so
            More often then naught I am a ‘merely’ “again” looking over and through some other old antiques picker’s craft and slight of hand.  “Okay” I say to all that and noting that “markets change” (in their short terms) for the various ‘old things’ but the classics and standard bearers of the realm of ‘good’ ‘antiques’ has not faltered.  And does not.  Tawdry users of the that word; “antiques”, continue the old school traditions of beeline value valuations (careless and callous) and ‘don’t know’.  The ratio is about the same as from when I started all this (antiques hunting) now fifty years ago.  I would like to say I find it vulgar... that in this day and age they be so that; ‘careless and callous’ but... I don’t.  I find it pathetic and amusing.
            The ‘ample’ of my now long work experience ‘in the houses’ and with the keepers of the keep... or the their abandonment of the ‘their things’ is
            As natural as puddles after rain.
            So natural is the domestic domain of the variable of careless and callous and the resulting ‘keep’ or abandonment... that I harvest the singular result that is “I cannot fail”.  So much ‘is in there’; the old New England private homes... in such disarray... and in the handling-of-all-this... beeline value... that it (the contents of the old homes) has more often become a messy baby’s diaper.  It is so messy that one, alone, ‘cannot change it’.




            I don’t do anything about that.  I do not try to be reasonable about that.  I do not even ‘get in the way’.
            Usually, when I finally do arrive on the scene, it has taken a while for the true ‘careless and callous’; the established pure décor (Part Four), to be bandied in its wholeness to message the principals (heirs and executer, etc) that their special needs... need me.  I am speaking of a ‘really’; the décor of true careless and callous; the depth of that (Part Four), that is ‘so that’ that... oddly... I do get ‘in there’.  After dispersing the less experienced (and less professional) rabble; the “I want to be” and “I CAN DO THIS” (they cannot), I soon find myself alone ‘in there’ wrapping cordage around drawers full of ‘not looked at’ and “getting it all... out of there”.
            That may take years; decades.  That is the part most hidden in a careless and callous décor distribution.  It all just does not ‘get dumped’ in one swoop.  No.  It is ‘pieced’.  I do that: the ‘pieced’.  Everyone enjoys that; it is not a bumpy road or a violent rip.  It is not a scream, a horror show, a trashing or a crass rummage.  In fact, managed amply, ‘rummage’ is ‘never’ ‘anything’.  Even the worst (a TV table, for example) leaves on ‘fair terms’ with no screaming and, often, a friendly pat.  The drawer may be tied shut and never looked in but ‘amply’ is a satisfactory ‘carry out’ the front door.




            The first time I purchased (purloined?) a true ‘careless and callous’ estate’s contents, I, after a period of mired in abundance, discerned that ‘one may live off these’ estates for years.  That is what is ‘done with them’.  If I don’t get (by contents purchase agreement) the estate contents all up front, the estate contents usually becomes ‘a mine’ that I ... mine... for decades.  The heirs may ‘do that too’.  Mining; a mining operation.  Over decades.  There is that much stuff... ‘in there’.  Long term mining is easier on everyone; a flock of small decisions are easier than a ‘battle plan’ clean out that often, in fact, requires an army and precise maneuvers.  I know of what I speak.  Well.
            The steady hand on the helm of the old New England ‘careless and callous’ ‘accumulation of (antiquarian) art’... allows the whole to slip through the shallow harbors, avoid prying eyes, avoid ‘dock fees’, avoid consumer disclosures and, taking the last a little further, avoid inventory of... and lists of... “anything”.  Presented properly below radar, a careless and callous ‘old New England’ estate contents is one of the richest ‘surface deposits’ of undistributed assets... in old New England.  But again; note the ‘steady hand on the helm’ phrase.  I do not need or want a dizzy wrecking ball yabbering about ‘VALUE’, ‘MONEY’ and... “ME”.
            Around.
            Usually, the historic tradition of the contents; its careless and callous strength, and the maturity of the heirs in the community (a sixth sense) allows the steady hand process.  Annual distributions from the contents (“mining”) over... several decades... is a “the best way”.  Eventually it gets down to ‘the dregs’?  Reminding of “THE (kitchen) DRAWERS ARE FULL” (Part Three) state and the “rich enough” clause (Part Four), one may denote that any ‘dregs’ may well be ‘way above’ in quality from comparison with ‘any old average’ estates kitchen drawer contents.  If the contents is as it should be; a true careless and callous contents, then ‘there are no dregs’ in there.  The mine... is gold.  Commercially, ‘it is all good’.




            If sterling silver butter knives are scattered in the closed drawers of the estate’s furniture... after once being called to serve to ‘pry open’ or act as if a screwdriver... now “bent” and tossed into a closed drawer...:  If one discerns that... and has that status complimented by the discernment of scattered sterling silver teaspoons... “here and there” too... one may take that train of discernment for a very inclusive grasp of the... logical... deductive... status of the whole (true careless and callous old New England estate contents).  And bet on that.
            Again:  And bet on that.
            Yes, that is right:  Gamble.




            If the careless and callous estate’s qualities are symbolically represented by old bent sterling silver butter knives ‘tossed’... then one may take that to show the wealth and quality of the whole estate?  Then turn with that informed deduction and
            Buy it all
            By gamble (“sight unseen”).
            This very last is where the “you” are not “there” and only a scattered few “I” show up with the abilities to market this gamble.  If... one has actually seen those butter knives in a careless and callous décor as I describe... then, possibly, “you know”... but may still be hesitant to gamble.  If one ‘has not seen this’ (tossed sterling silver butter knives)... then all of this will probably appear to be a vague confusion that would, at a ‘least’, “require” you look it over (examine the contents carefully; the beeline value valuation noted earlier).  That alone; consideration of doing that, in my realm, takes you out.  The “they” of the estate rarely want a “you” “doing that”.  I am saying I put my money down, tie the drawer shut and carry it all (the estate contents) off ‘without looking’.  Most ‘would never’ (have the... well... ‘bone of back’ to) ‘do that’.  And... THAT
            IS THAT.




            Now that I have spoken (in five blog post chapters) of and about ‘careless and callous inheritance of (antiquarian) art, I feel confident that I have, at the least, taken this estate setting to an expanded definition of its neglect.  I have too... turned this estate form back on itself to show it as a true state of estate contents wealth; a singular and notable ‘rich peoples’ way.  Between these two realms one finds very little wiggle room if one is trying to squeeze through the ‘door opened a crack’.  Most visitors have only an accidental and momentary ‘peek’.  Others have the residue gleanings of
            What ‘they’
            “Got”  (“From my mother’s house”)
            that they “think is good”
            And want to “SHOW THAT TO YOU” (me)
            Yuck.




            I prefer the pure strain... and pursue only that.  Messy inheritance with the ‘come and go’ distribution... assures a hurried and definitively stated “I WANT” then taken out and... taken away... leaving
            “The Rest”.
            This ‘the rest’ is so dense and of such consistent quality that my “I” (eye) needs only a blurred view, rapidly ‘walked through’ to, these days, assure a ‘gamble’.  It is little gamble I suspect the reader now discerns.  Simply that much, that good, that dense and I get it all... ALL... out.  Too.  I don’t talk about it:
            The “careless and callous accumulation of inherited (antiquarian) art” and
The estates from whence it comes.
            This is the first time I have ever spoken or written of it at all.







Monday, September 5, 2016

The Dead Doll

When I was very young, I would go with my mother to a very rural Maine home, between a road and railroad track. It was a very small house, painted barn red. Inside, we would accompany a large man around this home. I would hold my mother’s hand. I always held her hand. We would go from room to room and my mother would look at the things in each room. For example, she would look at the glass lamp on the table beside the sofa in the living room. Herbert, the man’s name, would say something like “Twenty-five”. My mother might continue by looking at the table that the lamp was placed on. Herbert would then say something like “Forty”. These comments my mother answered with sayings like “It’s very nice.” or “Wonderful.” or... “I’ll buy that”. This latter we would accomplish promptly by paying cash and taking the various objects outside to our car. After touring the entire home, we would drive away with the things we bought. We would take them to, for example, New York and my mother would sell them. She would do this in the same manner as our purchase, sometimes selling from OUR living room, next to OUR sofa. When I was young, we had people walk around our home and buy “things”, though I don’t recall any children holding their hand.


At Herbert’s, I was never allowed to touch anything, ever. I never did. Herbert lived with his mother. She always sat in the corner of the living room and made noises that one comes to associate with very old people. I never went near her, ever.


My mother died. So did Herbert’s. Mine did not die before I had followed in her footsteps at a very early age and become “one of them”; an antiques dealer. I was old enough to drive by myself before she died. Before her death, we were dealers together. I continued to go to the little home between the road and the railroad after she died. A decade had passed so the road went sixty-five and the railroad went seventy. The little red home between them shook from these speeds. Herbert, who now lived alone, guarded its contents from this shuddering.


I got to know Herbert very well. I was more meticulous than my mother; I priced everything he found. He didn’t mind, he was a dealer. We would joke about the stuff, the deals, the people, the trade, the train crashing by as we loaded a pair of Windsor armchairs “untouched”. Herbert was very adept as a Maine picker, “in a home”. A picker is the soul who goes to the private home and buys the “things” that become “rare antiques”, usually a half mile later. I am a picker too. My mother taught me how to be one. She learned from my grandmother. Herbert learned from his mother, the one who made the noises.


Herbert’s house, the red house, was very rural so had no electricity and no plumbing. He didn’t care. “THEY” had bought it for a “place” in the summer. It is between Gilead, Maine and the New Hampshire line. Its red and still there, with everything still thundering by. Herbert had relatives who hated him and the house. They wouldn’t stay there because they “had to shit in the outhouse”, his words. They would drop by to wish he would die so they could do whatever with his dead-man’s assets. We would joke about this and look at the outhouse. It tilted backward, the result of the thundering traffic. Herbert and his mother had bought the poorly situated home for “the stencils”; Mose Eaton stencils, upon the walls, a “New England Decorative Art”. We always looked at those too, but not as hard as the other “things” he’d “found”.


I would “buy” and leave and then come again and “buy” some more. He would “find” more, pulling into desperate Maine farmer’s yards and dickering the old crows “out” of their “things”. A table, a lamp, a brass something. Some “china” or “glass”. Always the “china”. Herbert liked the “china”. I bought the “china”. Other dealers, older and jealous of my negotiations with Herbert would suggest that I could buy from him because “he wants to get into your pants”. I spent a lot of time with Herbert and china and I never sensed any of that. Eventually I did so much “summer” business with Herbert, he suggested I start coming “to the coast” in the other seasons and “buy” from his “house”. Since his mother had died, he’d “decided to sell” “some things”. I got directions immediately.


By the time I had these directions my Father had died and my mother was so sick from cancer that she could no longer “hit the road”. When I would return “home”, (a variable as my parents declined and died) I would show her what “I got” “that day”. A day was often a week for I was older and ... “on my own”. Being on my own as an antiques dealer was very exciting and profitable. I could “go anywhere” “I want”.


Before everyone died and from whenI still held my mother’s hand, I learned a great deal about how to “buy and sell” “things”. There’s a certain etiquette, often affected, in “handling” antiques and rare books. It’s a dealerly mannerism. These physical actions extend to similar and directly related verbal mannerisms. The two merge to form a perfect whole that experienced dealers engage with relish AND consider a signal to remove all boundaries of the “normal people” and... head into a sort of deep space of “being a dealer”. One’s gestures (physical and verbal) very promptly convey to the experienced dealer just “how long” one has “been in the trade”. This is probably the most important thing I learned while holding my mother’s hand. It was very difficult to understand WHAT a piece of furniture was but... it is unforgettable to be beside someone who somehow negotiates an old women who looks like a witch to allow my mother to take everything off the top of a table, put those things on the floor, turn this table upside down, stare at it while the witch stares too and then quietly utter a number that was in fact an amount of money. Further, to then have my hand released and no attention thereafter paid to me, see a large wad of money pulled from a crevasse of my mother’s clothes, see the eyes of the witch watch that operation precisely, see the designated number be turned from that money and this money pass to the witch and watch this money disappear into the black crevasse of her clothes left a violent image in the mind of my youth. This was a “real”. The only further thing I’ve ever learned about this “real” is that there is, much to my perpetual surprise, a very large percentage of people who “don’t know” “about this”.


All that latter discovery ever does is make the hand holding era of my life more vibrant. It is only now, fifty years later, that I understand the magic of my position. My mother, with proper dealer etiquette, did not care that I was privy to these transactions, but I understand THAT very well too (she wished I was NOT there but only because to have a kid with you is... a pain in the ass).


When I held the warm hand I knew it was warm because that was the only thing that was warm. Everything else was dark, dirty and cold. The more dark, dirty and cold it was the ...more my mother bought. And the warmer the hand was. I was disinclined to release the hand on the earliest travels with my mother. Later, as my experience grew to a familiar association with the dark, damp and dirty, I would dare to let go. This was, cautiously, because I had seen something ...I was interested in. It was a vague off in the dark, damp and dirty but... I had to see “it”. No one ever stopped me. After the preliminaries of my independent movements in these dark and dirties, I became a sort of bird dog for my mother, moving ahead and to the side in the darkness flushing out ... antiques. My mother would chatter away with a witch or warlock, as is the proper dealerly way. These people were always witches and warlocks. My mother seem to prefer the oldest, darkest and dirtiest dwelling spaces and, as any young person knows, that where witches live. Right?

So I perpetually found myself holding the warm hand of my mother in a very haunted space. I didn’t realize that these spaces were the home of the haunted until I was old enough to be instructed that literature has found these spaces to be where the blood... runs cold. My blood was always warm. My mother’s blood always seemed to be hot. Now I understand it was hot because SHE was HOT. Any dealer’s blood is hot when doing what we were doing.


The ceilings of the spaces were always either very low... or very... very high. The higher they were, the darker it was up there and the paint was always pealing. Today, when I “visit” a “restored” Victorian mansion, I always notice that the ceiling is “perfect”. This does nothing for me except make me long for a very distant past when I would look up from the warm hand of my mother to see the scaling darkness way above me. Below the exfoliation of the ceiling my eye always found giant dark heavy “drapes”. They didn’t look like “drapes” to me. Nor would they to you. They looked like something that would smother me before I could “ever” get disentangled from “it”. Everyone always called them “drapes” though; “the drapes” to be exact. I avoided them for they were “creepy”.
Beyond the ceiling and drapes, carefully denoted by me attached to the warm hand, was the rest of the space and this was generally an extensive series of rooms on two or three floors that had words like “the parlor”, “the sitting room” “the front stairs”, “the guest room”, “to the maid’s” and... “to the attic”. Each of these spaces had “things” in them and we would always dwell on these things. It is important to remind a lay reader that a picker rarely make one visit to these old homes. For myself and with my mother, we would often visit them “every year” until, of course, the people “died” and the home was “cleaned out”, preferably by “us”. The parlor would have a table under (as far as I was concerned) the drapes. And a sofa no one dared sit on. The paintings on the walls were always very large and of Jesus or a ship. My mother never tried to buy Jesus but always tried to buy ships. Holding onto the warm hand I always grew excited when I was released because we bought “a ship”. I like paintings of ships too.


A bedroom always had a dresser. The drawers in the dresser often had “some of mother’s things”. Sometimes we could buy some of these things. I always noticed that my mother could always recall something particularly interesting in one of these drawer that we had NOT been “able to buy” and that she always managed to mention that specific item each time we were “there”. Often, I recall, she’d mention the item twice on the visit. The first mention of it was before we went into the house. Usually it was a “Maybe we can get the little miniature (painted portrait preferably in it’s original frame) today.” sort of utterance that only makes fundamental sense to me in hindsight. These utterances were a verbalization to herself but I learned quite a bit from them.


Did you ever hold on to the warm hand of your mother while she purchased old “things” from a witch in a haunted house? I doubt it. I wish I could meet people who did this but... I never do. Actually, every now and then, I meet someone who seems to have done something like this but... . But either the house was too clean and not haunted or... they didn’t “know” “what they were doing”.


This last is an unpleasant problem. My mother didn’t know what she was doing for during this era of interest in decorative arts the trickle of information proving good from bad was decidedly hearsay. Today we actually know too much. The too much that we now know makes those who “seem to have done something like this” really look perfection.


Today, “knowledge” of decorative arts (and rare books for that matter) defines and defies my visits to Herbert and haunted houses. “It is” and “is worth” are specific forms of expertise I garner daily from my clients. Like a ruler slapped by a teacher on my knuckles I am suppose to winch with pain and return to a trail of ordered commerce? No thank you. Shouldn’t one be ashamed if it was true that all of these “things” that my mother “found” while I held her hand were only “yours” in a collection because ...you bought them? Have you ever found “something good” that was qualified by a giant darkness around it that had to have something else in it? Have you ever had the moment between the silent direction of attention toward that darkness and one’s advancement into that black where the only sound is the rattling breath of the witch behind you?


It is not only the breathing that one hears. It is also the shuffling of the shoes on the floor. One cannot see the witch’s feet but one hears them move in the same shoes she’s worn for fifty years... or longer. They ...slid, sort of. A subtle clomp comes to the ear too for they are too loose on her feet and... she would rather not be wearing them anyway.


How do I know that she would rather not wear them? Because she takes them off when we go up the attic stairs. At the top of these stairs she pushes the rat trap away with these feet. The feet are encased in stockings. They are not the stockings a women buys today. They are stocking so thick that they hide her skin and the swelling of her lower leg above the ankle. They hang in wrinkles on these ankles for they are “pinned-up” as opposed to attached to a garter belt, that forsaken decades ago. The dead in the trap is “new”. It is a rat but not an urban rat. It is a wood rat, “coming in” for “the winter”. Her toes move the full trap toward the top of the stairs while her eyes inspect the bait on the other traps. I am inspecting the rest of the dark space while she tends the traps. My mother’s hand is warm, perhaps hot.


Trunks, boxes, chairs and barrels. The one window beyond these whistles with both light and wind. The glass rattles, particularly the oldest panes that my expertise now denotes quickly for they are aquamarine in color and swirl to create a distortion of the village street outside. The leaves from the trees outside patter against the house while the branches that release them rake the exterior wall of the attic.


Before this scratching sound my mother and I push forward in the dim light. The barrels seem to interest my mother more then the trunks. I notice that the lids to these trunks are not secured and in a few incidence a dark (black) cloth extrudes from the incompletely closed lid. Today I recognize these symbols as indicating the ...trunks... “have been gone through” meaning searched for treasure by far more recently then the day they were “put there”. My mother knew what she was doing.


The barrels are not lined along the wall, but scattered amongst the desolated debris. There is a path to the rattling window and it’s offer of light “to see”. My mother’s hand releases me and me eyes are even with the top of a barrel. It is full to this top with “things” wrapped in old newspaper. My mother picks up a package of this paper, carefully (I now understand) selecting a larger one to side step the nuisance of merely unwrapping an old drinking glass.


Even then I already knew that the barrels had only glass and china in them. They always have only glass and china in them when they are full of things wrapped in old newspaper ...in an attic. Further, I’d seen plenty of barrels just like them at Herbert’s. Herbert and his mother bought this sort of barrel for years in addition to filling their own barrels. He would never let us “go through” his barrels but he would occasionally remove a decisively selected package from a barrel far off in the little red house, unwrap it and... sell the ceramic treasure the package contained ...to us. I knew that the barrel my mother reached into had only glass and china in it but I knew it was... old glass and china.


My mother’s interest was in... very old... glass and china. Evidently she did not find that for she demanded more then a polite share of information from the witch as to “where these were from” referring to all the barrels. The witch told how her mother had packed them “up” when she was a little girl. My mother unwrapped a second package from a second barrel. This she re-wrapped with rather rapid motions and without raising it above the top of the barrel. Her far hand pushed this package down into the barrel and seemed to cover it while her near hand fluttered for mine. I gave it to her. The talk continued. The barrels came from the witch’s house; not this house, but the house where she “grew up”. My mother seem to know about this house and was contented with that information. She seemed to be looking at all of the barrels now and turning them in her mind. Barrels in attic, particularly full barrels, were difficult for my mother to move “out”. I knew this because I had been released from her hold at other haunted houses while she had to move a barrel “out”. Here there were more then one barrel.
At a number that was not concise to my hearing my mother bought the barrels. I didn’t hear the number and I didn’t see the exchange that turned that number into money. Nor did I hear the conversation that allowed my mother to “get” a “hired man”; a “Mr. McMullen” “if he isn’t drunk”. Mr. McMullen lived with his family above the drug store up the street. If he wasn’t drunk. “Johnny” always needed money and people like my mother and the witch always used Johnny for doing things like moving barrels full of old glass and china out of attics and always paid him “a little bit”. They always called him Mr. McMullen to each other but always “Johnny” to Johnny. Mr. McMullen was very nice to me if he wasn’t drunk. I never was allowed to say anything to Mr. McMullen if he was drunk. Sometimes we would see Mr. McMullen and my mother would say that he was drunk. Most of the time that was when he was lying down on a bench in the shade next to the fountain in the park by the Inn. To me it looked like he was just asleep but my mother always said he was drunk.


The reason I didn’t hear what my mother and the witch were saying was because I had been released again and this time I had noticed something that interested me sitting on top of a box up next to the window. It was a violin case, I was sure. The reason I was sure was because a girl in my class at school had suddenly started bringing a case that was the same shape as this one to school once a week and, after an appropriate period of mystery, had shown its contents to a small group of us who demand to know “what was in that”. My family was not very musical and I had never even seen, let alone touched, a “musical instrument”. So, when the girl laid the case on her desk and flipped the latches open, lifted the lid and revealed what was obviously a precious and fragile object shining as glazed wood and held firmly within this black box, it left a desperate appreciation for musical instruments with me. Beyond that classroom experience I had never had the opportunity to further this initial and single exposure to the mysterious “musical instrument”. Here appeared my first chance.


I proceeded up the trail to the window and the violin case resting on top of the box. It had to be a violin case because it was black and the same shape as the girl’s at school. Past that, it was different. This case was made of old wood. Her case was shiny black plastic rimmed with silver colored metal. This case was covered with dust. Her case was polished to a shiny mirror black. This case was closed by tiny brass hooks. Her case had big silver buckles. Still, it had to be a violin. My mother and the witch approached. I heard my mother saying something that included the word violin.


Before my hand dared, the witch’s hand extended to the brass hooks and they fell open. The same twisted fingers pushed the lid upward. I could see nothing else but this hand and its roots we call fingers. Then I saw something that is still undefined to me as either horror or love. Before my eyes appeared a red clothed doll wedged within the opening violin case. As the lid rose my heart rose too. My hand closed on the empty air where it had reached for my mother’s hand. This air was cold. The window rattled. The light from the window shifted. The doll was dead.
“This was my mother’s.” I heard the witch saying directly above me. I was motionless in a confusion of horror and awe. Either the doll was dead or... it was a dead person? I stammered in my mind while my eyes recorded the details. A white porcelain head with an even whiter face topped the red cloth figurine. Pink rouge touched the cold white porcelain cheeks. Real blond hair puffed above this ghost face in a disordered profusion that included bows tied from red ribbon. One eye was open, staring at the roof above me. The other eye was closed. “I won’t sell this.” I heard the witch continue to my mother. My mother said something but I didn’t hear it.


The witch’s hand and the fingers reappeared before me. They crossed the doll’s face and closed the open eye. Then they vanished. The eye stayed closed for an instant then popped back open, to stare at the roof again. I didn’t dare move. The witch’s hand came back across the face. This time it opened the closed eye and disappeared again. That eye held open for a long moment. It’s view was not parallel with it’s partner; it drifted to toward the nose. Then it snapped shut. I didn’t dare move.


My eye of horror moved down the figurine to see that the red was a dress beneath a red cloth. These, pulled and creased away from their original placements by decades of voyeurs who opened and closed the coffin, were further confused by holes and chewing from moths. Surrounding the red were equally distorted bundles of cloth, evidently once the doll’s other clothing; bundles of blues, blacks, white and more reds. Overall, the doll was hideously clean and perfect. No dirt ever penetrated the box and the only distortions were due to the folds of the cloth, the pressed fluffs of the hair and her ...eyes.


I felt myself leave my body, dizzy and light. I felt cold then I felt hot. The lid closed and the witch’s hand touched each brass hook. The coffin was closed and locked. The dead doll was gone. I felt my hand in my mother’s hand. I felt hot and then cold. The window rattled next to me. I looked at it. I looked back onto the violin case. The doll was gone. The lid of the case had finger prints in the dust on it’s top. The top of the case was black. I wanted the doll. I hated the doll. I loved the doll. I was scared to death of the doll. I looked at my mother. She was paying no attention to me and was saying something to the witch about getting Mr. McMullen. She released my hand and they walked away. I looked down at the black lid and then followed them. At head of the stairs I saw the dead rat in the trap. I looked back toward the window and could see the silhouette of the violin case resting on top of the box. Then my mother made me go down the stairs and ...we left.


We walked up the street to the drug store and the up the outside staircase attached to the side of the building. My mother knocked on the door at the top and was greeted by Mrs. McMullen who went off shouting for Mr. McMullen that “MRS. FREEMAN HAS WORK FOR YOU!”. A brief conference took place at the door and while Mr. McMullen got ready my mother handed Mrs. McMullen some money. Mr. McMullen was very cheerful and spoke pleasantly to me but I didn’t care to notice this for I was still trying my horror and knew that I was going back to it.


We went to the attic with the witch and while the three adults talked about the barrels I walked directly to the violin case. I didn’t dare touch it. I wanted to open it. I mean; I thought I wanted to open it. I knew that the doll was inside, that she was dressed in red, that one eye was open and that one eye was closed. I was sure of this. Yet I wanted to be sure of this. Somehow.


Mr. McMullen started to move a barrel and the witch cackled about removing the rat before he removed the barrels. My mother went past Mr. McMullen to another barrel. NOW was my chance.
The latches fell open, the lid lifted. The doll was still dead. One eye was open. One eye was closed. She was dressed in red. Her blond hair was tied with red bows and these were pressed upon her white porcelain face. The window rattled, light shifted and Mr. McMullen responded to a command from my mother that he “knew about that one too”. I closed the lid. I latched the hooks. I looked at top of the case. My finger prints were in the dust on it’s top. I touched the top again. I was sure the doll was inside, dressed in red, with one eye open and one eye closed. The open eye must be staring at the lid of the case I reasoned. Then I had to leave.


I didn’t even get a chance to stare back at the widow and the case this time. My mother hurried me down the stairs and we waited outside while Mr. McMullen brought out the barrels. There were six barrels. None of them would fit in our car but my mother had already arranged for Mr. McMullen to get his friend to deliver them in his truck. This man’s name was Carol. I though Carol was a girl’s name but this man was called that. My mother took Mr. McMullen aside and gave him some money. When she did this she said some sharp words to him that I now know were to the effect of not to spend the money on drink until after he’d delivered the barrels. This sort of arrangement with men such as Mr. McMullen is why, after my mother was dead, so many of these sort men continue to tell me what a fine woman she was; how they loved her; “a fine woman”.


While I stood in the yard, I stared at the house. It was a very big house. My eyes wandered up the front of the house. Each floor had four windows that faced me. The first floor had only three windows because the forth was the front door. Then I noticed that way at the top of the house was one window in the very center, just below the roof. THAT was the window in the attic. And BEHIND that window was the ...violin case. And IN the violin case was the doll, dressed in red, with one eye open and one eye closed. I stood staring at the window until my mother made me leave. I think I learned everything there is to learn about life while I stood there that day. I’ll never be sure of this and... I never saw the doll again.


When the barrels were in my Grandmother’s barn we; my Grandmother, Mother and I, took each piece of old glass and china out and unwrapped it. Understandably, the stuff was good. My mother took the package she hidden out first. It was a soft paste (“old paste”) pitcher in a gaudy floral pattern that they called either “King” or “Queen’s” “rose”. I don’t know what it was nor care but I do know now that it was big enough to be what they called it; a “cider pitcher” and the most people would “keep it”. We sold it.
My Grandmother announced that this “must be from the Harris Place”, evidently the original home of the mother of the witch. My mother and grandmother discussed this relationship, that home and how the witch had never married so and so but had inherited the house she lived in from him and that all of the “things” from her mother’s house had been moved there “from the farm” “when it sold”.


There were several tables full of dirty china in the barn before my Grandmother told how the witch’s mother had a sister who was killed when she was young. How a horse ran away with the buggy. How she fell from the buggy and died. My Grandmother said that the witch’s mother never got over the death of her sister. She told how at the sister’s funeral, the witch’s mother had taken the sister’s doll and made a dress just like the one the sister was dressed in for her burial. “It was a red dress and she made one for the doll just like it. Then she put the doll in a violin case and carried it in a wagon at the funeral, just like her sister’s coffin. The family had the doll forever; in the violin case. I saw it once; many years ago".


“We saw that doll today. She still has it. She won’t sell it.” I heard my mother say. Then she looked toward me to see if this talk had any effect on me. I didn’t respond in any way. Later that evening, when I was alone in my bed, I pondered the doll, the violin case and how the doll had one eye open and one eye closed. I stared at the ceiling of my room in my grandmother’s house. I did this with one eye open and one eye closed. I noticed the paint on the ceiling was peeling.