Sunday, March 2, 2008


If the date in the book is correct, I last read Diary of an Early American Boy on September 15, 1979.

I'm sure about the other date in the book. In my dad's handwriting: "Presented to Harold Thomson, March 2, 1976." He dated the book because he cherished many books by Eric Sloane. Dad also dated the book because, well, because he dated everything.

I randomly picked up the book this morning, the March 2 date a complete coincidence. The kids woke up still miserable with their colds, coughing like seals. I needed something to sit and read as I felt as energetic as they did.

The book, like Sloane's others, chronicles details of early American life. How to create ink. How to build a bridge without a single nail. How to split planks. How to make nails. How to build a mill, a forge shed, a cellar. Did you know early American farmers began their planting season on March 25? Do you know the differences between fence stiles? Do you know what a hay rick is? Do you know the real reason behind the term, "dog days of summer"?

Sloane was a student of early American history, both writing and illustrating some of the great breadth of knowledge required by the early American farmer. He writes in Diary:
In modern times when everything a person needs may be bought in a store, there are very few hand-made things left. So we are robbed of accomplishment. In Noah's [the subject of the Diary] time, nearly every single thing a person touched was the result of his own efforts. The cloth of his clothing, the meal on the table, the chair he sat in, and the floor he walked upon, all were made by the user. This is why those people had an extraordinary awareness of life. They knew wood intimately; they knew the ingredients of food and medicines and inks and paints because they grew it and ground it and made it themselves. It was this awareness of everything about them that made the early American people so full of inner satisfaction, so grateful for life and all that went with it. Nowadays modern conveniences allow us to be forgetful, and we easily become less aware of the wonders of life. 
We are apt to ponder why almost everything of the old days was initialed and dated. It was simply because almost everything was made by the one who initialed it; the date was added because everything was so completely aware of the times in which he lived. 
One of the things I don't like about working in IT is that there is nothing long-lasting. Nothing that is crafted. Perhaps that is why I am drawn to sewing. When I am making bags, I am thinking about how I am making a gift for the person who will use it. 

My dad spent his days as a fine woodworker, enjoying the art and craft of his work. Above is a picture of one of his hand-turned bowls. On the back he dated it: 12-25-1988.

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