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A Key Sparks a Conversation

A few days ago, my young granddaughters made a discovery when they visited my house. They found my blacksmith’s iron key. They wanted to know what it was and why I had it.

Their curiosity presented me with a teachable moment and an opportunity to tell them a little about their family history. I explained that they come from a long line of blacksmiths in the Sherman branch of their family tree. My key reminds me of that although it does not unlock anything that I own. It serves as a paperweight.

I have not had it very long. Knowing my family history, my husband/tech advisor gave me the key and several richly-illustrated children’s books about blacksmiths for Christmas last year. Now I was happy to share some information about blacksmithing with the girls.

I explained that the key they found is a replica of antique keys once made by blacksmiths. They were amazed that common household items like farm tools, pots, locks, and keys used to be made, one at a time, by village blacksmiths, including their ancestors. As we discussed the role of a blacksmith in the community, they were relieved that today they have the luxury of visiting a dentist instead of needing the blacksmith to pull a bad tooth with the same tool he used to remove nails from a horse’s hoof.

The girls liked the photos of blacksmiths hammering hot metal at the anvil while wearing heat-resistant leather aprons. They learned new words like forge and smithy and bellows. One of girls recalled visiting a working blacksmith shop at the Littleton [CO] Historical Museum. Now the other granddaughter wants to see it, too.

Not bad for a spur-of-the-moment history lesson.

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