As a historian, if something has a bit of age on it–a house, a building, tool, book, anything–I seem to be drawn to it. My house is full of “things,” all of them pretty old. “Everything in our house is old,” I once said to my daughter Alice.iron-1166042_1280 (1) “I know, I know,” she said, staring me straight in the face. I didn’t take it too personally, realizing that my genes were again having their way. I especially like spinning wheels, made evident by the four of them I have scattered about our house.

          When we were youngsters, Mother had a Saxony (flax) wheel which she kept behind the living room door, always admonishing us to “Watch out for the spinning wheel,” never making any effort to move it to a safer spot.

          One day, when I came home from school as a young man, the spinning wheel–often used as a prop in grade school plays and church productions–was missing from its usual place behind the door. “Where’s the spinning wheel?” I asked. My mother gave a convoluted account about how some of her Virginia relatives had come by to visit: “It really was their wheel,” Mother finally admitted, “and I let them take it.”

          Their wheel, I thought. Their wheel! That spinning wheel had been in our family for as long as I could remember! I was pretty perturbed and vowed that one day I would, indeed, have one of my own. And I did, four in all, all different. One of them just happens to be the same one which left our house years ago.  Here’s the story.

          About ten years ago, I got a phone call from my eldest brother in Louisville. Sounding like an Old Testament figure, he announced, “The spinning wheel hath returned,” after a forty-year absence. “What do you mean?” I asked. “It’s back, at Brother Bill’s house in Raleigh, North Carolina.”

          I called Bill immediately and inquired about our wheel. “It’s right here,” he said. “I’m looking right at it! And,” he said, “There’s a long note attached to it that tells the story of where it has been and where it originally came from.” I was especially excited when he reported that the final words of the note were, “And, it belongs to Ernie Tucker.” I said, “I’m on my way!”

marshall-university-81218_1280          Marshall University in nearby Huntington, West Virginia, just happened to be playing North Carolina State’s football team in Raleigh that very Saturday, so after detouring through the spectacular Great Smoky Mountains National Park, great-smoky-mountains-1098985_1280we arrived at Raleigh, completely worn out from a long trip punctuated by our usual wrong turns. We attended the ball game, stayed the night, visited with Bill and his family, and then headed back to Ashland with my old friend the spinning wheel in the back seat. It was exactly as I had remembered it and had not been damaged in any way.

          It had been in the Nashville home of my first cousin Alice, a nurse, and her surgeon husband for all those years. Both now had retired and had decided to dispose of some things, including our old spinning wheel. Their daughter, a Presbyterian minister, was going to be in Raleigh at a church meeting, which explains how it got there.

          My mother had rescued the wheel in the 1920’s from Cousin Alice’s husband’s family who had lived on Brown Creek in southwestern Virginia, not far from where my mother had been born and raised. Mother had always thought that it might have been destroyed had she not been on the scene at the right time, and I think she was right.spinning-wheel-63007_1280

          I guess we can say that our spinning wheel was passed down in my family by marriage, since Cousin Alice’s mother was my mother’s sister who had married into the family who had owned the wheel originally.  (You may need to read that again!)