Under a spreading chestnut-tree the village smithy stands;
by Clarke Davis
Keith Jackson is in charge of the village blacksmith shop at Cottonwood Station named in memory of his son, Clark.
During festivals and shows Norm Davis, Topeka, usually does the blacksmithing while Jackson gives tours of the rest of the shop.
It was Keith’s aunt, the late Dorothy Jackson Ferrell, who told him that he needed a chestnut tree to grow over the shop as described in the first line of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem, “The Village Blacksmith.”
The first line reads, “Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands; . . .”
So Keith planted two chinese chestnut trees along the west side of the building 30 years ago. Today, one reaches well over the roof and drops its hard fruit with a bang on the shop’s tin roof. The other one toward the front of the shop is more a dwarf variety.
“The guys used to tie their horses to it during Horsepower Days. I think it stunted its growth,” Jackson said.
A third chestnut tree in the back of the shop was a volunteer, having grown from a seed the squirrels planted near the Thick ’n’ Thin sawmill.
“I dug it up and replanted it down here,” Jackson said. It’s now on its way to one day spread its limbs over the village smithy as well.
Jackson explains that a chestnut is different from a buckeye. The chestnut itself is encased in a porcupine-like shell before it matures.
School groups were taking turns going through the Cottonwood Station Friday, a prelude to the Fall Festival held over the weekend.
Jackson explained to the students that the entire shop was powered by a 10-hp, 1-cylinder gas engine that turns the line shafts. From the line shafts belts run off pulleys to power a large number of tools including a drill press, hacksaw, grinder, lathe, and whetstone.
Davis introduces the students to his 350-pound anvil and as he heats steel he talks about atoms and molecular bonds as the steel goes from cold to hot — 1800 degrees F — and back to cold again.
The blacksmith always pays tribute to Meriden’s blacksmiths, the late Albert Palmberg and his son, Carl.
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