The Farm Chronicles: Time in a box

When I was a young pup, maybe six or seven, I became quite curious about the stuff in the house. On the second floor at the top of the steps was a latched door leading into a half story room we called the second floor attic (because there were creepy steps from my bedroom behind another latched door leading to the third floor attic, which was less than a half a story). Behind the second floor door, there were many mysteries and not a lot of clues. An old library table, circa 1870, several old trunks, lamp tables, candlestick makers, tools and more. It was like a family museum. When nobody was home, I used to sneak into the attic to see what I could find and kind of dream about those who came before me.

In the linen cupboards at the top of the steps, my explorations uncovered at small, rectangle wooden box with a poinsettia design on the lid and sides. It contained lots of odds and ends. Old cuff links with my great grandfather’s initials, old tin makeup cases, a delicate hand fan with butterfly patterns in lace and several old pocket watches were jammed into this curious box. One of the gold plated watches was engraved with “CEW” in script. It was my great grandfather’s, Charles Edwin Wilson, born in 1856. After checking around, I found that this watch was made around 1890 by the Hampden Watch Company, a major employer of Canton, Ohio.

Many years go by and I was home from my first full time job as a broadcast journalist in Kansas City, Mo. And I got to poking around again and found that old poinsettia box. One of the watches had a horsehead engraved on it, and it gave me an idea. I would search for another pocket watch like it, but I would get one with three horseheads on it—one each representing my Dad’s three sons—and give it to Dad for his Christmas/Birthday gift. He absolutely loved it. When he passed on, I wanted to keep the watch, but couldn’t find it. We looked everywhere. No deal. I even prayed to find that watch. Another 13 years go by. My mother passed on and Chris and I were left to clear out the farm and set things in order.

Still, no sign of that watch. My mom had an extensive wardrobe and probably more shoes than Imelda Marcos. So we packed those up and many of my Dad’s clothes with which Mom could never bring herself to part. Put them in the back of the pickup truck because there were so many and took them to our friend Lucille Linton, mother of my horse showing colleague Lorraine. Lucille volunteered to take them to their church clothing ministry. A few days later, Lucille called. She had went through the pockets of the clothes, and found a watch that I might want. Indeed, she did! It gave new meaning to Luke 8:17, “For nothing is hidden that will not become known.” I still keep those watches in the poinsettia box and I think about how they kept time over the last 130 years of my family’s history. It’s not time in a bottle, but time in a box.

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Bill Wilson