We have a new mantle. That room has always been missing something. Now a beautiful mantle above our wood burning fireplace radiates love and blessing heaped upon blessing from deep within its grain, worm holes and pores.
Its hard to say how old the wood is, but it certainly has a story of its own. You could say its been around a while--at least long enough to pass through four generations of the Wolf family.
It was gathered by my loving husband and I, from my Pap's farm in Wolfsville, Maryland. A piece of home. A home of not much money, but a rich in love. We gathered it, the old hand hewn American Chestnut beam, one spring. Hand hewn it was by the strong hands of my Pap and Great Grandfather Loy. It was a support beam that the old gray weathered chicken house used to rest on. The old gray chicken house that had rigety stairs to get inside and an old, rusted water spkit. You could hear the chickens clucking away from outisde. I was young when Pap and Grandma would take me across the pig path road and down the pasture to that old chicken house. Outside of there was a young birch tree. Pap would get his pocket knife and cut a little branch and skin off a piece of birch for me to chew on. I still remember the birch taste and chewy wood in my mouth.
There was a tin bucket. "Get that bucket, were gonna need it for the eggs" he would say. I would get its handle and wait for him to open the door that stayed shut by a small piece of wood nailed to the door frame. Gently I gathered the brown eggs and placed them in the tin bucket. Sometimes an old rooster was in a cage in there, Pap would put him in there if he was bullying the other chickens.
That spring day many years later, my husband and I gathered that beam from a rock pile. The chicken house is gone now, but this beam remained. It was so heavy, I could barely lift my side as we put it into the back of his truck.
We took it from there to my parents house, where my Dad used his strong hands to cut it on his saw mill.
My husband then brought it to our new home in West Virginia. I sanded that beam, and sanded it, and again until it was smooth. Daddy made us matching brackets and I sanded those too. Then "golden oak" stain was put on it. Magificient it is, as it pulls out the dark color of our knotty pine wall behind it.
Today, Dad and my husband put up that mantle. I can't stop staring at it. Although Pap passed away two years ago and went to live with our Lord Jesus, I can't help but feel a little piece of him, of our memories is right here with me.
Pap touched that beam. He cut that Chestnut tree down and hewed it to hold up his chicken house. Dad touched that beam. He cut it into our mantel. And now, me, I have had the privelege to touch that same beam, sand it and stain it.
When I was young and walking up the rigety chicken house stairs, gathering eggs and eating birch, I had no idea what profound love and memories are forever etched in my heart. For there are many, and now one old, chicken house beam will always remind me.