Sunday, April 26, 2015


Yesterday we said goodbye to a cousin of mine that I haven't seen in a decade but still has a pull on my heart. My dad was probably his favorite uncle and they told stories about getting pigs onto a truck to take to market but by the time they were all loaded my cousin was pretty green in the face. Pigs can stink! At the time of my own dad's passing my cousin came to the funeral so I wanted to pay homage to this man and how much he meant to my dad.

It was going to be a three and a half hour drive so I checked ahead to see if there would be any interesting places to stop along the way. Sure enough, about half way there was a small town that listed a thrift shop so I set my GPS for Sauk Centre. It was good to get out and walk for awhile so after the thrift store, where I bought some black fabric for making bias binding, I walked on down into the center of town. Stopping at a bakery that was pretty old fashioned because they only sold baked goods, no coffee or chairs to sit and eat, I treated myself to a cream filled long john and kept walking. There was an antique shop so I figured "why not?" and that's where I found this:
Singer Spartan still in the back of my car
Sitting on the floor with a nice case, I could see it was a smaller 3/4 sized machine and was very please to find a Spartan inside since I haven't had one of them before. They are the same as a Singer 99 but as their name suggests, they are spartan: showing indifference to comfort or luxury. No extra decals or flourishes, they are fairly simple. I also found a nice set of attachments that the shop owner practically gave me so I didn't mind carry this compact but heavy sewing machine a block back to my car (small town!). 

I drove on and reached the memorial service in time to visit many cousins before the service and connected with his daughter who is also into vintage sewing machines. The service was a touching tribute to a man who loved his family, liked to tinker, and really didn't move too far from the farm-life of his birth with jobs that kept him outdoors. There were many stories told by a grandson, brother-in-law, and a daughter about his card playing antics, collection of tractors and other farm machinery, and great generosity. We all mourned the gradual loss of his life as he succumbed to ALS, so this was a celebration of the man we knew before the heartbreak of dealing with such an illness. I think he would have understood my sewing machine collection/repair/business and the fascination of this old machinery and how it cries out for a time-gone-by when machines were well-built and meant to be repaired to last a long time.

I got home just after dark and brought the Spartan inside to clean up because she seemed a bit sticky in the shop. I wiped her down with a damp cloth and then used TR3 automotive polish and the sticky was gone but the seems they used the wrong kind of oil to clean her because she was pretty grimy and sticky inside, too. Much cleaning with cotton swaps and Triflow sewing machine oil but I had to remove the bobbin mechanism and put it through the sonic cleaner to get it clean. All reassembled with the oil wiped off and ready to run, she was a good buy and a remembrance to a tough day and the bonds of family. It's never easy to say good-bye to those we love, those we have ties to whether through genetics, friendship, neighbors, or just shared interests so it was fitting to close my day tinkering with a piece of machinery. I think my cousin Burl would have understood.
My cousin Burl as I like to remember him


Caroline said...

He sounds like a good man, it must have been terribly sad to say goodbye! The sewing machine was a nice and appropriate find, since it seems to reflect some of the things you loved about your cousin.

Karen said...

Thank you, Caroline, for your heartfelt observations.

Cheri Dawn said...

I'm so glad you have a machine to connect you to that day and to your cousin. How appropriate!