Lake County History, Chapter 130: The Blacksmith

George Goslowski wrote for the Pomo Bulletin about a Blacksmith Shop and the work the Smithy does. With small liberties in the editing, here is George’s description of that early profession, and the colorful group of interested friends, customers, and other interested parties, who witnessed the daily labor of an unsung hero that forged an empire;  the Blacksmith.

 “The Blacksmith shop was a popular gathering place for Lake County people. These were folks that needed a new point on the plowshare, a wagon wheel re-strapped, a horse shod, and the many other iron repairs that they depended on for the smith’s strength and skill.”

“The Blacksmith’s place of business was a single-story frame building with a big wide door in front and a few dusty windows on each side that only the spiders called home. The floor was heavy planking. A strong magnet could, in the space of five minutes of attention, draw up a bushel of broken nails from the floor and around the forge where pieces of coal or coke were scattered. There was no gas or electricity. The forge was fired with coal or coke and his light came from a coal-oil lamp.”

“Come with me down through the years to that other time as we watch the Smithy work. Hear the din of his hammer, the roar of the forge, and the neigh of the horse being shod. Smell the pungent odor of burnt hoof as the shoe is pressed against the hoof to gauge the fit. The nails are driven into the hoof and clinched to hold the shoe. The horse is, relatively, unconcerned. He feels no pain. Like a fingernail or a toenail, these parts have no nerve endings.

“As we look about the shop we see, on wooden pegs, hang the Smithy’s tools; tongs, hammers, clippers, chisels, and harness parts and harnesses. In the shadows of the shop, back out of the way and ready should they be needed, there is a wagon wheel or two. Strap and rod iron lay on racks ready for a wheel that may need banding.

“In the business part of the room is the forge and the mighty bellows. Near at hand, on a sack-covered keg of horse-shoe nails, a cat dozes. And horse-shoes? The busy smithy always has a good stock of those near, along with the sack-covered keg of horseshoe nails.”

“The cat is taking his leisure. He is the Blacksmith’s cat. Since you cannot ‘own’ a cat, the cat is only an interested non-working partner to the Blacksmith. Its job is to supervise the work with a critical yellow eye.

How true, how true. My cat, Cleo, sits on the edge of my desk watching the screen as I type with the same critic’s eye. If Cleo does not like something I write, she will not hesitate to place her paw on the keyboard… a gesture which his a clear message of disagreement with some phrase or other.

“The Smithy goes to work. It was grown dark outside, but for the smithy, day or night does not matter. With tongs, he grasps the iron shoe, pushes the piece into the sleepy eye of the forge, and raked the coals snug and close around the iron. His mighty arms pump the bellows until the forge wakens to white heat. With a swift practiced swipe, the Blacksmith snatches the iron from the fire and hammers the shoe to shape. The sound is like a war or an avalanche as the din of his hammer smashes against the iron.”

“The lamp casts grotesque shadows in the room and the sight is terrifying to behold. In a few minutes the work is finished, the inferno over. The Smithy wipes the sweat and grime from his face and removes his leather apron. The red eye of the forge dims slowly. He is ready for his next task…. “

Next Week: The Clear Lake Sea Monster


To enjoy and learn more about Author Gene Paleno’s books, visit Gene’s website; http://genepaleno.com/

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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