Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sentimental Sunday...Blacksmith Shop, Symbol of Days Past

Sentimental Sunday – discuss a sentimental story or memory about an ancestor, or maybe even a family tradition that touches you. This is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers and was suggested by Renate Sanders atInto the Light.

Borgreen's blacksmith shop
 Blacksmith Shop, Symbol of Days Past, Makes Way for Parking Lot, Sign of 1961
by Dick Coon Great Falls Tribune

"Ever wander back through the mist of memory in some locale that brought pungent smells, sharp sounds and clear pictures from your childhood?

Such a place is a small building located at the corner of Third Avenue South and Second Street. Over the front door a sign proclaims "Blacksmith," and a nearby tree adds to the impression of men and horses, buggies and buckboards.
This symbol of slower times, perhaps calmer living, will soon disappear to make room for the gasoline-eating monsters of the highway. It will become a badly needed sign of modern times, a parking lot. But who, in the future, can conjure up memories of a parking lot?

Wonder into the building, pause in the door, and there before you are spread the tools of the blacksmith. The old anvil, made of prime Swedish steel, shows the nicks and dents of thousands upon thousands of heavy hammer blows on hot iron. Perhaps a hundred men have laid muscle into those blows. The old forge, blackened by years of use and countless fires, once was laboriously fired with a hand bellows, but now contains a blower with an old-fashioned rheostat control.

As you stand there in silence, if you listen closely you can hear the sharp "clang!" of the hammer on the hot shoe, and the sizzle of the shoe being placed in water to cool it. Close your eyes and you can almost hear the squeak, squeak of a wagon pulling up, a dog barking an excited greeting, and the farmer from Belt, or Cascade or Vaugh, jumping down from the seat  into the dust where in 1961 there is asphalt and concrete. And if you wrinkle your nose just right, perhaps you can smell the pungent odor of a freshly trimmed hoof, or the acrid stink of a shoe being put into position, or the horses' sweat or used har- (missing)...

...returns you to the present. "Can I get some plowshares fixed up here?" and you stand by with mixed feelings of 1900 and 1961 as Len Weismann, who is showing you the place, explains there isn't any blacksmith there anymore.  Afterward he explains that the smithy was founed by Gust Bargreen [sic] sometime before the turn of the century. Last operator was Earl Baker, who hasn't done much work there in the past two years because of illness. Looking around you see a door covered in brands, each representing an iron the smithy had made. If you knew the brands and backgrounds of the ranches they represent, you'd have an extensive history of farming and ranching in Central Montana. Old calendars and advertising sheets are here and there on the wall, and an old trip hammer sits beside the forge, blacksmith tools cover the walls, several old wagon wheels lean against a rear door. You take one look around, then step into the sunlight and the modern world knowing that the blacksmith shop, and all it represents may soon be gone, but not forgotten."

Gust Borgreen in his blacksmith shop circa 1943

1 comment:

  1. Greetings!

    Reading your wonderful blog for the first time -- connected from the GeneaBloggers page where the word Montana from your title jumped out at me. I'm a native Montanan, l-o-n-g time genealogist -- hoping to transfer my many years of research to the blog world via a new genealogy blog. Will keep you apprised as I get it "connected" soon.