Tag Archives: Traditions

Shoe Shine Boxes

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ONB

When I was a boy, my father scrounged scraps of oak plank and made himself a beautiful shoe shine box, of his own design, with his initials “ONB” carved on one end and chiseled greenery on the other.  He made a similar box for me, bearing my initials “REB”.

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REB

As boys, my four sons often watched me shine my shoes, asking me if I would please shine theirs.  Then they began asking if they could use my shoe shine stuff to shine their own shoes. They have enjoyed using my shoe shine box during their boyhood years.

This Christmas I presented to each of my sons their own shoe shine box.  It was time for them to have their own, to carry on the tradition.  For lack of tools, time, and skill, I simplified the design.  But I still find their shoe shine boxes elegant.

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I had planned to make the shoe shine boxes over the Thanksgiving weekend while staying with my parents.  Caleb (16) asked if he could stay one night with me, so I decided to let him in on the secret and help.

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After Caleb left, Grandpa, the original shoe shine box carpenter, helped me finish the boys’ boxes.

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My sons may be the only living boys to have such shoe shine boxes, in a three-generation genealogy of shoe shine boxes, made by their father and grandfather.

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I hope my sons find years of enjoyment and pride in shining their shoes with their shoe shine boxes.  And who knows: perhaps they will make such boxes for their own children someday.

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I hope you will find a unique and meaningful way to connect with your sons and daughters, and to carry on the traditions of your generations.

Voices

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Areas of my ramshackle chicken coop are filled and covered with odd-and-end antiques.  I don’t buy them; they just seem to find me, in ditches, from neighbors and friends, at thrift stores.  I love them for their shape, color, and design.  More deeply, they speak to me of people and times long faded.  My book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road is partly about the voices of the peoples and cultures that have died, giving way to the young and new.  The young and the new, however, find much of their substance in the past, whether they care to acknowledge it or not.  When I want to feel the voices, I walk on Rabbit Lane, or retreat to roost in my coop.  (See Chapter 15: Of Foxes and Hens for a description of how my chicken coop was built.)  This poem is about my chicken coop antiques and the voices that still whisper.

VOICES

Reaper’s rusted scythe screwed to weathered wood.
Glass milk bottles glazed with powdered cobweb.

I have surrounded myself
with old things
that gather dust to cover rust.

Springy sheep shears that built bulky forearms.
Blue-green power line insulators.

I bring them inside walls
of bricks and unplaned planks
and windows of rainbow leaded glass
that once walled and windowed others’
houses and living rooms and bedrooms and kitchens,
and sit with them.

Buckboard step that lifted a long-dressed lady.
Sun-bleached yolk with cracking leather straps.
White skull of an ox.

Filigree voices whisper
the virtues of old ways,
without judgment of me
or my time or my ways,
in gratitude for not forgetting
altogether.  I prefer their voices
to the bickering blogs
and testy tweety texts
of now.  They tell me they were
practical get-it-done devices
with no axe to grind or soul to skewer.

Brown-iron horseshoes open upward
to catch the luck, nails bent and clinging.
Vestiges of sky-blue on the rickety bench
I sit upon.