Favorite

A handful of nails 

Strolling past the Historic Arkansas Museum on the way to the Fortress of Employment the other day, we couldn't help but overhear two fellas who were building a gate in front of the new blacksmith shop outside the Plum Bayou House log cabin.

"I'll need to temper those nails," one of them said. Just that. Just a short snippet of convo, and then The Observer strode on. For those who haven't kept up with their metallurgy since high school, tempering is the process of heat-treating something to make it harder and more resilient — in this case, nails, which need to be stiff enough to drive with a hammer.

The whole of the blacksmith shop over at HAM, which rose up out of the grass last summer, was done like that: The Old Fashioned Way, right down to the hand-tooled joinery of the rafters and the forged hinges and the handmade bellows to stoke the forge inside. It was a heck of a thing seeing it all go together over the course of a few months, and struck us as kinda funny at the time, this idea of people making something by hand like they were stuck in an 1850's time vortex, just because they could.

We got a reminder of that the other day, when we heard those two fellas talking about spending more of their precious lives making a handful of nails for the gate when there are squat-tons of perfectly good 16 penny sinkers at Home Depot for a penny apiece. That moment made Your Old Pal think that maybe there's more to it than folks seeking the novelty of doing things the way granddad did. It's an ideal. And by gum, they were sticking to it to the end.

There's something about that kind of dedication that makes The Observer giddy, be it in public service or politics or even in hand-making nails that folks aren't going to glance at twice, just because that's what needs to be done. It might strike some as a little corny to put so much effort into something like that, in this world that seems to move so quickly. It doesn't make good sense, other than from a connection-to-the-past sorta way. That said, we can totally relate to that desire to slow things down and make the moment last. Keep on tempering, fellas.

The Observer got more mail and phone calls about last week's piece on Junior taking up the tuba than just about anything we've written in recent memory. Feelings about that low-voiced thicket of brass run deep among its admirers and devotees.

One phone call we received at the office was simply a tubist playing a very intricate composition using only his or her tuba mouthpiece. It still sounded like an antelope choking on a kazoo, but this antelope could carry a tune you could dance to. Then there were the e-mails from kind tuba players, former tuba players and those who love tuba players who wanted to share their experiences.

Here's one that was especially touching to The Observer's heart, penned by a proud dad of a no-doubt-even-prouder member of the mighty Razorback Band: "Our son chose band in the sixth grade, and by ninth grade, had been persuaded by a dedicated director to take up the tuba. He eventually bonded with his instrument, and maybe even felt a little polite pity for those who played smaller horns. Yes, we were very excited to be in the stands at the Missouri State game on Labor Day weekend to see him play with the Razorback Band for the first time. And, by the way, I think there are about twenty-three Razorback tubas this year."

The e-mails and calls made The Observer remember the dim days of yesteryear, when we played trombone in the high school band. Specifically, we remembered the kindness of the young people in the chairs beside us, our musical brothers and sisters, who collectively wrestled those devilish eighth notes and sixteenth notes alongside The Observer. Rarely in life have we felt so accepted as when we were tuned up, somewhat on key and playing music with our friends. Whether or not Junior becomes one of those 23 tubas tooting in support of the Razorbacks someday is really incidental. Mostly, we just hope he'll get to know that same brand of personal harmony as well as he knows the scales.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • I'm sorry

    I'm sorry we stood by while your generation's hope was smothered by $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, just because you were trying to educate yourselves enough to avoid falling for the snake oil and big talk of a fascist.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Show and tell

    The Observer is an advocate of the A+ method of integrating the arts and using creativity to teach across the curriculum, an approach that the Thea Foundation, with help from the Windgate Charitable Foundation, is offering to schools across the state.
    • Feb 25, 2016
  • Yawp

    The Observer has been in a funk lately for a number of reasons: revulsions and slights, both foreign and domestic. We get that way most years as the winter drags on, once the tinsel and colored lights of Christmas drop into the rearview, soon after we come off the New Year's Day hangover.
    • Mar 24, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated itsĀ 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in The Observer

  • Dumb and smart, at the same time

    The Observer spent the week at a bar and thought a lot about a joke and its writer.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • -30-

    A newspaper died up in Atkins a few weeks back, not with a bang or a whimper, but with the sound of change jingling in a pocket, just too little of it to keep the printing presses rolling.
    • Jul 13, 2017
  • Does she know?

    Did Kim Walker-Smith, when recording "Throne Room" for her new record "On My Side," truly understand the power of her music? Does she now know that her song was the one that played on the radio as Michael Reed thumped into the Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds and brought it on down?
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation