In End Grain

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Years ago, I made a corner cupboard from black walnut. I thought the wood was magnificent, but a can of rusty cut nails I used in building it proved to be far more important, taking me on an unexpected journey into my past.

My father gave me these nails, saying that they were left over from the demolition of my grandpap Zeda’s tool shed. As a boy, I loved opening the shed’s door, seeing Zeda’s old and weathered gardening tools, and smelling the peculiar aroma of mother earth subtly seasoned with old fertilizer and stagnant air. Through all kinds of weather, Zeda would spend hours gardening, tinkering, or idling away the time with visitors. He loved it when his grandchildren came by for a visit. Sometimes he’d break from his daily routine and dazzle us with a riddle or trick until we thought he was larger than life.

When I built the cupboard, I spent over an hour straightening those nails. After driving the final nail into the cupboard’s back boards, I paused for a nostalgic moment. Suddenly, I felt the convergence of three generations of my family: our lives, our histories, and our souls.

The cupboard still stands proudly in my dining room. Its real meaning lies not in its external beauty, but in the living history provided by a handful of hidden cut nails. This cupboard’s genuine character, as is often the case with people we know and love, lies comfortably and deep within. -Don Midway

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  • tms

    Many years ago, when my grandfather was dismantling his old dairy barn, I asked him why he was saving nails. He replied that he wasn’t saving nails, he was saving saw blades.

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