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Archive for November 13th, 2006

A dilemma

I have a terrible dilemma.  Several years ago, Jim’s mother died.  Over the course of the decades she and Jim’s dad had lived in their home, lots of Stuff accumulated.  It became necessary to clear the house of the glacier of miscellany that had collected during their 50+ year occupancy.

During the course of the clearing out, which required no less than four trips to California from Missouri and the rental of a U-Haul truck, a lot of things turned up.  Many of them were mysterious objects hidden in dark corners of shops and sheds.  And a lot of them, of course, were junk.

The item which is causing my dilemma was stored high up on the shelves of the “chicken house.”  This shed began life as a chicken house, and the original users provided income through the sale of their eggs and lots of Sunday dinners when they stopped laying.  For some reason the family flock was discontinued and the chicken house got cleaned and furnished with shelving and became a storage facility.

Even the shelves turned out to be treasures.  The shed itself was destined to be torn down, since it was too close to the property line and definitely not up to code.  The long shelves were lumber that Charlie salvaged from some place or other when it was being torn down.  Most of the house was built with salvaged lumber.  There are amazing 12×12 beams in the basement that are old growth pine that came from a warehouse in San Rafael.  The hardwood floors were beautiful maple salvaged from an old skating rink.  And so on and so forth. 

The chicken house shelving got put into the aforementioned U-Haul truck and Jim has been using it to craft small tables.  One of them is in my entry way with shells and fossils and a fountain on it.  Another is in my massage room with somewhat the same sort of burden.  After the whitewash was planed off, the wood turned out to be beautiful fir with a flame pattern in the grain.

I know you are about ready to die of curiosity as to what my dilemma is by now.  I guess I had better stop the delaying tactics.

During the cleaning out process, Jim came across a bunch of plates of what looked to be filthy dirty plastic, wired together through holes in their sides.  They were covered in dust, stashed way up high behind a bunch of boxes that had not been moved in at least a decade and maybe longer.  He pulled this thing down off the shelf and took it out into the light.

Before he was able to identify it he had to wash it some.  He looked at the treasure in his hands with astonishment, and wondered where and when it had come from.  His mother was dead, so he couldn’t ask her.  None of his five siblings remembered ever seeing this particular piece before, or even knew what it was.  So they all decided that Jim should have it.

The concensus of the group was that it must have been something that Uncle Harry had picked up during his travels as a seaman on a trading vessel, lo those many years ago before World War II.  He travelled all over the world during the innocence of humanity, when we hadn’t realized how detrimental our hunting, fishing and desires for ornamentation were to the wildlife of our planet.  And he brought many wonderful things home from foreign ports.  This was one of them.

What is it?  It is the entire set of shell plates from a loggerhead turtle, beautiful raw tortoiseshell.  The turtle it came from had to have been two feet long at least.  There are a couple of plates that have the scars where barnacles had attached themselves for the ride.

My dilemmas is this.  It is far to beautiful and precious an object to throw away.  Trade in tortoiseshell has been banned internationally in an attempt to protect this endangered animal.  I have no idea how to work tortoiseshell, either.  I want to do something with it, but what?  How?  Who?

Any ideas or suggestions would be gratefully received. 

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