By Connie Williams
The year is 1896. Two children, a boy and a girl, stand riveted watching Mr. Harper the smithy beside his glowing forge. With his muscular arms, he hand pumps the bellows and keeps the fire bright and glowing. The children were Zella Hegg and her friend Billy.
From our files, Zella Hegg says that they would be so interested in watching Mr. Harper shoe a horse they would almost forget about their errand at Finger's Grocery Store for their mothers.
Zella bought a can of baking powder so often it became a joke. Baking powder lasted a long time because only a little bit was used at a time. Any excuse to be able to pass by the blacksmith shop which stood where the Fairway Store is today.
One day Zella and Billy stood in the wide doorway so hypnotized by what was going on at the forge that they forgot to watch behind them until the thump, thump of horses hooves on the ramp behind them warned them they were in danger of being trampled. They scurried out of the way like scared rabbits. But they soon were back in the doorway to watch the horse being shoed.
Wearing his leather apron, Mr. Harper would thrust his tongs into the forge and pull out whitely glowing iron which he would quickly hammer on the anvil into the shape of a horse shoe. The sparks flew everywhere. The heated iron would sizzle when cooled suddenly in water.
Mr. Harper would take the horse's hoof between his knees and with his back to the horse, he trimmed the hoof with a sharp instrument and nailed the shoe in place.
Although Mr. Harper seemed not to fear the horses at all it was still a very dangerous job, because most of the horses had never been shod before. They were frightened and would often kick.
This is an art almost gone today, and with it the sights and sounds and memories. But through the eyes of a little girl of long ago, we have been able to capture the excitement of it anyway.
If you are looking for something rewarding in your life or just have a love for history, come and volunteer at the Paynesville Historical Museum. We need you. We need your ideas and creativity. We have a brand new building on communications and transportation. You can be part of a new and exciting journey and do something meaningful for yourself and your community by preserving history. Whatever time you can give, no matter how short it is, it will be valued.
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