Serendipity, The Wrought Iron Fence, and Joyce’s Garden

Several years ago three friends and I drove over to Valley City, a favorite little town 40 minutes west of here. An old fellow had a very large barn cupola he wanted to donate to the museum. He told a story about a group of guys who planned to tear down a local barn, but wanted to save the ornate cupola set high on the peak of the steep roof. Nobody could figure out how to get it down. Finally one young fellow (whose family wasn’t there to stop him) took a rope and made the rather scary climb to the top of the roof. He tied the rope around the construction and threw the end of the rope off the back of the barn. He then tipped the cupola over and down the front of the building. The guys on the ground slowly lowered the quite heavy roof ventilator to the barn bridge by playing out the rope a bit at a time.

Unfortunately, the cupola then sat, unmoved, in the gentleman’s back yard for the next 50 years. When we first saw it, it looked really great. But, like so many other buildings I have looked at, it sat whole from simple gravity (and paint) holding it together, instead of being whole from structural integrity. It fell to pieces when we tried to move it.

And then was to happen one of my favorite parts of museum collecting. ….Serendipity.

I asked him what else he might have that might suit the museum. He took us over to a barn/garage he had at the back of the property. It was stuffed full of “stuff”. We looked in, managed to squeeze thru the door, pushed past a grindstone mounted to a table and picked our way over, behind, under, around, other mostly junk, to find twelve sections of wrought iron fence. He said it once surrounded and protected a cemetery in Grafton. He went on to say that when he was much younger the Grafton Trustees decided to replace the fence with something newer because the wrought iron needed fix’n and it was becoming a maintenance problem. Our new friend had picked it up, thinking he might use it some day, but instead put it away. And there it waited through the decades for our arrival.

We made a quick deal with him, loaded the fence onto the trailer and brought it home, …where it sat for another couple years. We had the same problem as the old gentleman, we also just hadn’t the time to fix and paint it. But, now, in this winter and spring of little snow and cold, we are finally repairing the broken and bent pieces, and painting it once again its original colors, -gloss black, with gold tipped spear points. We have fixed it to new posts and it now surrounds the museum’s Victorian Garden.

We have a number of gardens, trees and areas where passed friend’s ashes are placed. There’s Harvey’s Garden, the final resting place for our great friend and most excellent dowser Harvey Lisle; and Rill’s Tree, a Dawn Redwood she donated to the museum shortly before she passed, perhaps somehow knowing it might be her last place for resting in the shade. There’s a baby, lost many generations ago, buried in the front yard by the horse chestnut tree, a Vietnam veteran amongst the ash trees and Mark is at the Stone Circle.

Now Laura has suggested that the Victorian Garden, with its “new” 120 year old wrought iron cemetery fence, be named Joyce’s Garden. She was a very well liked friend who was always so helpful to the museum and the gathering of its collections. Laura thought the naming appropriate because some time ago Joyce gave us two metal garden chairs. I then went to work with the welder and created two Victorian ladies sitting on the chairs (Laura thinks they may be one of my better art projects). And, as they ever so properly sit by the newly fenced garden, waving a friendly hello with their hair slightly mussed from the breeze, they always remember us to our missed friend Joyce, the lovely lady of Seville.

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