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Discover Mid-America — April 2008

We all have 'special' stuff

by Doug Bratcher

We all have stuff. Stuff is an accumulation of odds and ends, often dating from childhood that tends to expand the end of our earthly lives. Some of that stuff we keep or obtain is comforting, other stuff attracts us because it looks like fun, and with some stuff we convince ourselves it's necessary.

Before we could walk or talk many of us became attached to a special toy or blanket - the beginning of our collecting and holding on to that which is special. As we got older, we filled our pockets and closets, and the space under the bed. As young adults with nests of our own, we kept stuff in basements, attics and storage building, protecting stuff from seeing the light of day. Sure, once in a while, we tried to sort, organize and sometimes reduce the mounds of stuff to make room for more stuff. I call my stuff treasures and that is why it is too important to throw away.

I first hoarded comic books, basketballs, baseball cards and model trains, none of which I still have after many years of wet basements and house cleanings. When I was in high school, I obtained a pushbutton wooden table model Truetone radio. The radio dial had CBS red and CBS blue, Columbia and Mutual networks printed in colors on the dial along with many radio station call letters - WHAS, WSM, WDAF, WLS and others. Short wave is on a separate band with police and amateur bands.

When I listen to that radio, I can see my Uncle Arthur sitting in his chair in the 1950s with his ear to that same radio on the table next to him. The dial and the green tuning eye glowing in the dimly lit living room of his old farmhouse are clear in my mind today.

The largest treasure I have is a 1940 Chevrolet that was bought brand new by my Aunt Elizabeth, Arthur's wife of many years. Aunt Elizabeth was short and had trouble seeing over the steering wheel of that old car. Near the house was a garage with four square corner posts where Aunt Elizabeth parked her gray sedan, which explains why each fender had a matching square dent when the car was passed to me. That was my first car and I was just out of high school. Whenever I drive it, I'm reminded of the special people and special places from those bygone days. I'm also reminded that Uncle Arthur never rode to town in that car with Aunt Elizabeth. He didn't trust her driving and if he needed to go to town, he rode his mule.

Other stuff I have also reminds me of loved ones. The bowtie emblem from my Uncle Walters blue Chevy pickup is mounted on the grill of my old truck, looking like it was applied at the factory. Not many people know that it keeps me connected to an uncle who was like a brother to me. He taught me about aviation and the value of friendship, and the meaning of happiness. The old folding stool of my grandmother brings back the smells of good food cooking on her stove as she sat when she cooked because her will was stronger than her legs. Nobody has been able to duplicate the taste of her rolls and fruit pies.

Another special piece of her stuff is the old White sewing machine she used to patch my Braniff Airways uniforms. My Grandfather Maloy used the whip and the cane when he worked at the stockyards. As a young boy, he would let me tag along and help feed the cattle and hogs.

It's hard to choose a favorite item among stuff, but the four-gallon Peerless ice cream freezer that is now over a hundred years old and delighting the sixth generation of my family with a cold treat on a hot summer day, ranks high on the treasure list.

I have an AM/FM radio shaped like a lantern from colonial days that I traded a local junk dealer named Burt an old refrigerator for, and I still listen to it in my shop. A friend of the family, Dr. Mamie, gave me the chairs in the dinning room of our house and some old tools that belonged to her father. She was an osteopath who popped many a bone back into place and soothed sore muscles in her home office.

The wealth of books I have come from my Grandfather Bratcher's collection. I see him sitting in his chair next to the fireplace reading, his feet propped up on an old hassock, every time I pick up a book with his name written inside the front cover. I have a locket with my Grandmother Bratcher's picture and a lock of her hair inside. As a young boy, she sat on the steps so I would be tall enough to comb her long gray hair.

I have many more treasures from lots of friends and acquaintances. All the stuff from relatives and friends hold memories in them. More important than all the treasures that take up space is the stuff my mother and father gave to me. Stuff I hope to pass on down the line, better known as family values. I hope I never forget any of them.

Doug Bratcher and his wife Jan own Bratcher Cooperage in Liberty, MO.


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