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The Lessons Of A Ladle

by Bob Church
copyright 07-30-2002

Age Rating: 10 +

The Lessons Of A Ladle

The ladle isnít pure silver, certainly, and may not be silver at all. Like as not, itís some lesser alloy of tin, forged in the 1850ís or thereabout, close as anyone can remember; but itís silver in color at least. It doesnít matter, though. It manages to stay pretty clean, since I use it only occasionally, to dip water from a bucket when I get nostalgic for the old days. I rather enjoy the slight metallic taste it leaves in my mouth after I drink from it. Itís not a good taste or a bad taste, itís justÖ there. Besides, it doesnít last long, and I donít stand there like a ninny thinking about it, but itís there, nevertheless, and worth pointing out.

I think we tend to do that when we get older. All the little things mean more since we understand that thereís a certain finite quality associated with mundane events. Focus becomes centered upon the immediate rather than the far-reaching, and attention to detail reigns supreme. I think the kids would call that micro-management or microeconomics or some such micro-gobbledygook. It doesnít matter what you call it, itís the recognition thatís important.

Anyway, back to the ladle. This particular artifact is no ordinary hunk of metal. Countless sets of lips have enjoyed a cool drink of water while resting on one or another spot around the rim. Apparently, itís home-made. The designer was careful to round the lip, curving it under around the outside, ensuring that the baby or drunk grandpa didnít cut himself.

Plus, the metal yields to temperature. When dipped into a bucket of ice-cold spring water, it makes sure you pay attention and donít drink too fast. This sort of thoughtfulness is rare among inanimate objects and should, rightfully, be acknowledged.

Even the handle is accommodating. Whoever pounded out the metal could have left it flat and sharp, and in all likelihood, no one would have complained. After all, itís only a way to grasp the ladle, so why worry about how itís shaped? Iíll tell you why. Itís because his granny, mama, daughter or granddaughter might have grabbed that handle, and he wanted to make sure it would be safe and easy to use. Thatís why itís concave, too, providing a spot to rest your thumb on top while dipping or drinking since the ladle itself can be a little unwieldy if filled too full or if hands are very small.

I came upon the ladle by way of inheritance. When grandma died, I was told that I could have my choice of anything on the porch by way of remembrance. We were all down at the farm, and the funeral was tomorrow. By the time a small boy got his turn to pick, all the pictures, antiques and ice cream churns had pretty much been spoken for, but I didnít care; honestly, I had zero interest in any of them, anyway. As soon as I saw it hanging on the wall, on the same nail it had always hung on, I knew it was what I wanted. My only regret is that I couldnít take the porch and nail along with it. Images of Dad and Grandpa sneaking out onto the porch rushed into my head, as Grandpa hurriedly grabbed his bottle of Ďcorní from under a slat on the far side of the porch. I can still see his grin as he poured and offered Dad that ladle. They each shared a couple of sips, alternating until it was empty, then Grandpa would stare into it before swirling it in the air and shaking it to remove any evidence that may have inadvertently been missed. Then, heíd reverently hang it on the hook before heading back into the houseÖ they couldnít stay long or theyíd lose their stealth capabilities and be picked up as a heat signature on Mom or Grandmaís radar.

Of course, I canít prove it, but Grandpa told me stories handed down from his grandfather about Robert E. Lee himself drinking from that very ladle. It was during the early years of the Northern Aggression, and the general had bivouacked his troops in the woods adjoining the property. It was not an altogether wise move, Grandpa said, because our part of Missouri bordered Kentucky, and everyone knew those ridge-runners to be a treacherous lot; as many cow-towed to the Union as were loyal to Jeff Davis.

Even the cup has a personality all its own. The years have yielded a few bumps and dings and the outside feels rough and pitted, but the inner surface is smooth and glassy as a babyís behind with only a tinge of white discoloration in a semi-circle along the section opposite the handle. I suspect it may be calcium left when water evaporated while it hung. If I was to compare it to humans, I would say it takes on the appearance of age spots; and as I look at it, I only wish I could age so gracefully.

Yea, itís just a ladle. Thereís no precision machining or coat-of-arms, not a trace of pretense. It contains nothing of intrinsic value to anyone but me and that alone makes it precious. For now, it goes back on the hook, waiting patiently to be of service. Itís not silver, itís pure gold. Someday, I hope my grandson will understand.

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