Crafty veterans turn back time at Danville festival

September 19, 2004|EMILY BURTON

Coal smoke rolled over the encampment as deer hides stiffened in the sun.

"Just that little bit of sulfur makes it aromatic," said blacksmith Carl King.

The smoke from King's open coal forge had darkened his Ben Franklin spectacles, singed his graying beard.

"I smell like coal smoke constantly," he said, adding that his wife will ask him to change out of his period costume as soon as he gets home.

King worked Constitution Square Festival in downtown Danville as a period blacksmith, circa 1750, on Saturday, which surprised weather forecasters and turned out to be a beautiful day. The crowd watched at a cautious distance as he hammered sparking orange steel into flint strikers.

"None of the young people understand that smell, but the grandmas and grandpas remember that smell of coal smoke," King said. "They think about when they were little kids, when they were turning that handle of the forge for their grandpa."


Broom maker Jim Harmon of Springfield sliced natural broom corn to size for binding in his authentic press, over 100 years old. Broom making was traditionally a blind man's trade, better then to smell the fresh-cut whisks, he said. It reminds Harmon of the piles of fresh-cut hay he used to help stack as a farm boy.

Soap maker Linda Jackson of Harrodsburg sells cakes of hand-made shaving soap and the mug to mix it in. The paper-wrapped cakes cling with the scent of Grandpa on a Sunday morning. Now Jackson's husband has started using shaving soap, whipped with his own boar bristle brush.

"A lot of men are using it, and loving it. They remember when their dads used it, or their grandpas," Jackson said.

Banjo picker Darrel S. Hignite of London has those memories.

"My Grandpa, I used to shave him with a shaving mug. Course, when I cut him, he'd let me know it," Hignite said.

Big Pa, as he called his grandfather, would sit as a young Hignite swept a straight razor over his whiskers. The spicy snap of the shaving soap were still in his mind and his hands still moved to whisk the brush and soap as he talked about those shaves. That was back then, after World War II but before Woodstock.

"I'd give anything on earth to have saved that mug and brush," Hignite said. He kept Big Pa's banjo and Victrola instead.

Hignite and fiddle-playing friend, Russ Childers of Batavia, Ohio, sat in the shade with rosin on their fingers and relaxed grins on their faces as they soaked up the festival.

"This is the life," Childers said as he leaned back and started up a tune below the sulfur twang of coal smoke.

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