Learning to love great-great-grandpa’s wooden leg

Once thought gross but now dearly loved

My great-great-grandfather's prothetic limb makes a wonderful Halloween decoration.

I have items that just aren’t of any use to me, but I keep them around.

Oh, but wait . . . then someone comes walking into my repurposing shop and says, “This would make a great display item.” Immediately I get a sick feeling, a bit of panic and stress, because now I see a purpose for it, and I’ll never get it back.

In fact, I kind of hope they set it down and get distracted, if so ….it’s getting taken into the house and put into my private stock.

Always and forever as I grew up on our farm, there has been an object adorning our outbuildings. I’ve seen it in the crib and, most recently, within the last 25 years, in one of the round grain bins.

It hung next to the seed sacks my grandpa stockpiled in the 1930s when my dad was in the Navy. The ones the mice took refuge in.

The item we are discussing here is my great-great-grandfather’s wooden leg.

Great-great-grandpa Albert was mowing hay with a horse-drawn mower on a hot summer day. and he managed to fall off. The mower ran over him and the sickle cut into his leg, resulting in an amputation.

He was of short statue, so the leg almost appears to have belonged to a child. It’s crude, has rusted metal, springs, buckles and leather, and it has survived many seasons in the outbuildings. Even though lots of things have gotten thrown away, somehow the Blougher men were just not able to let it go.

There was a time in my life when just looking at it really grossed me out.

The only purpose I had found for it was about seven years ago. I used it as a joke when my friend said that her husband was at a party drinking, and the statement was made that he must have a wooden leg. The other woman sitting at the table had never heard that expression and felt bad that he had lost his leg.

Anyway, for some reason, that talk triggered me to remember the heirloom leg in the bin. So I walked down, brought it up and presented him a real wooden leg. For reasons that I understand, he did not take the leg with him.

I’ve written about my newly found cousin. Well, she and her husband came to the shop a couple of months ago, and he was given permission to look wherever he wanted. Pretty soon, he comes up and says, “What about the leg?”

My jaw dropped. I confirmed he was talking about the old wooden leg. Down deep, I wasn’t sure of selling it, but I swallowed and said, “Sure, I don’t know why you would want it, but I suppose I could let it go for $35.”

I asked why he would want it and he replied, “How many people do you know that have an old wooden leg?”

He had a point, I suppose, and in my mind I was wondering if I should be letting it go.

I even mentioned that my son is a podiatrist and maybe someday he might want it to decorate his office with some of the other antique things I’ve intentionally purchased for that reason. We all know that is really grasping at straws in this minimal decorating world of 30 year olds.

Anyway, being the kind soul that my cousin’s husband is, he eventually decided he did not need it. But for me, it became my newest treasurer and obsession.

I retrieved it cautiously, hosed it down, scrubbed it up, touched up the plaster with some chalk paint and hung it in my bathroom.

It makes a great place to display a fall arrangement. We all know that’s what I needed. Somewhere to place more stuff in another thing on the wall.

What is it about us that we don’t want something until someone else finds value in it? We see this behavior often in children, but I also see it a lot in customers.

That’s why at auctions you see people bidding on items they normally would never entertain the idea of owning. The ownership of the item is a high or the ability to possess something someone else wants is what drives them to obtain it.

Looking this concept up, I see that it’s called perceived value or mimetic desire, a marketing term. If we see someone else valuing, touching or using an item, its value automatically rises in our brains.

Well, today my great-great-grandfather’s wooden leg takes a place of honor in the bathroom. But I’m sure if you check back in six months, it will have lost it perceived value, and I’ll be ready to move on.

The prothetic makes a wonderful seasonal display in the bathroom.


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