Frozen in Time

Read one editor's musings on a black-and-white photo of farm life.

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The saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” The historic imagery throughout this issue is no exception. The publication collection printed on these pages holds greater value because it came from the personal archives of the late C.H. Wendel. The sheer variety and quantity of items sold in this recent installment kept me captivated, page after internet page. The worth of which cannot have a word count applied.

The picture below stuck with me more than others. It’s from lot No. 4050 and was sold in a group of black and white photographs. I wish I could hold it in my hand to examine it. It’s grainy and weathered and not in the best focus. It doesn’t have the usual shining example of a restored gas engine. Instead, it tells a story and captures a moment in time. Not a special event or holiday, but a slice from everyday life.

You can tell the season was cold. The leaves had already fallen from the surrounding trees. Perhaps the people shown here were hired hands — or maybe it was a large family — all pitching in to prepare for the coming winter. They were ready for hard work, dressed in sturdy clothes and gloves, and you can picture yourself there among them. There’s dirt under your nails and sweat under the layers of clothing as you move, despite the cold. The scent of gas fumes is wafting up from the running engine and you can hear sounds of rotation and a hiss as it turns.

Maybe there was some chatter amongst the group that sounded like, “Let’s hope we finish our work before the snow hits,” or “I wonder what Ma has on the stove for supper.” Certainly, they were all hungry from a long day’s labor.

Behind the 1-1/2hp IHC engine are what appear to be children, ghostlike, hidden in the steam. No doubt they were in awe as they observed the flywheels spinning and producing power. Perhaps they were watching their father or uncles work and thinking, when they grew up, they would get to be part of this important team. They all seem a bit weary, no doubt ready to reap the fruits of their labor and enjoy the heat produced by the growing pile of wood.

You can infer much from a photo; but only the subjects of this photo can share the truth, and those voices have long been silenced. For now, we can only wonder.

I hope you enjoy the rare visual treats we have to offer in this issue. Send me some of your favorite photos and the stories that accompany them. Less than a thousand words will do!

Christine Stoner

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