Friday, August 26, 2011

Cleaning barns & the gates of heaven

Several of us spent Thursday morning --- lovely and cool --- cleaning out the barn loft at the museum. It looks fairly tidy now (above), but that's a little deceptive. Since we'd underestimated the scale of pointless junk stashed up there, some of it remains stacked downstairs awaiting arrival of a dumpster.

There were enough used plastic dropcloths to wrap the entire barn --- seriously. Piles of scrap lumber that even our best woodworkers could think of no use for other than fuel. Sheets of crumbling foam insulation. And so on.

I'm told the loft, which actually was intended for storage, looked initially much like it did when we were done. But after the floor had been covered entirely and it became difficult to walk up there, later items were carried up the stairs and tossed on top.

Sounds (and looked) like the difficulties a lot of us have with home storage areas. You start out being careful, then start stacking, then start tossing and finally don't even open the door.

Now at least it's possible to get to the few few actual artifacts in need to attention that will remain in the loft until we figure out what to do with them.

This heap of wood (arranged more carefully that it appears to be) is the disassembled blades of a giant wooden windmill that once supplied the Ilion (aka Mallory's Castle) and the Mallorys' Brook Farm with water. The massive tail --- more than eight feet long ---  is leaning against the wall nearby. Both probably date from the 1880s. Eventually, we'll reassemble the blade and mount it somewhere with the tail nearby. But when and where are open questions.


This blog has gotten tangled up in one of those "viral" moments that the Internet is prone to, involding the late Jon Tumilson, a U.S. Navy Seal from Rockford who was killed in Afghanistan Aug. 6, and his dog, Hawkeye. I posted a photo taken during happier times of Tumilson and his dog here soon after his death was announced.

Hawkeye was brought to Tumilson's funeral at Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock Community School last week by the family and because he is a bright, mellow and well-trained dog, lay quietly near his master's flag-draped coffin during the service.

A Tumilson cousin, seated on the aisle, took a photo of this with her cell phone and the compelling image also was captured on video by the Mason City CBS affiliate which, along with the Mason City newspaper, was  authorized to record parts of the service that did not include Navy SEALs.

As those images began to circulate on the Web early this week, they capured the imaginations of hundreds of thousands of people who began launching Google Image and other searches. Because of Google indexing, page views of the Tumilson image on this blog began to increase Sunday and yesterday alone, more than 800 people took a look at it here.

I glanced again at the Tumilson tribute page on Facebook last evening. The "like" total had increased from perhaps 8,000 at the time of the funeral to in excess of 13,000 and condolence posts, many of them directed to the dog, were being added at a rate of about one a minute --- from around the globe.

It's an interesting phenomenon demonstrating the power of an image --- and of our imaginations. I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade (keep in mind I'm a dog-liker, not a dog-lover), but it seems unlikely because of the circumstances of Tumilson's death and the nature of dogs that Hawkeye knows what happened to his master, or  understood the significance of what was going on in Rockford Friday morning.

But many of the posts, several of which I read earlier and a few more last night, are interesting and moving. There seems to be a general assumption, even among some who appear to be devoutly Christian, that death in combat assures immediate ascent to heaven and that when Hawkeye dies, he'll join his master there.

These are lovely thoughts, and as more or less a universalist I'm in favor. My heaven certaily will include  pets. Both man and dog are eminently worthy, in my estimation. The scriptural base for all of this is a little shaky, however.

But I'm a big believer in grace and the benefits of doubt. Hopefully, all who feel that that the gates of heaven are open generously in this instance will be similarly inclined when those knocking on them are less compelling.

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