Mystery find

Farm Forum

We’re what you would call a pretty worldly group that gathers yawning and misty-eyed at the town cafe most days for an early-morning slug of coffee and a critique of this green planet called Earth.

Among our group is a crusty auctioneer who has sold every blue fruit jar and National Geographic magazine in our area at least five times, a PhD economist, a railroad engineer and a banker. Other professional types wander in to join us from time to time.

We’ve fought in wars, traveled the world, sowed oats and mucked stalls. We’ve fed hogs and raised families. We’ve been there and done that, and then a little more.

There isn’t a problem we can’t solve.

But our insurance agent friend managed to stump us the other day. When not selling insurance he roams the dark, dank corners of second-hand stores and prowls the back line of goods at farm auctions looking for antiques.

He pokes through boxes and rummages abandoned houses on the alert for an unusual find. And when he finds something, if it’s small enough, he brings it to our table so we can remember when we had one just like it, and asked “why didn’t we keep that darn thing.”

But the other day he passed around a small object made of wood that really stumped us. It was about the size and shape of an old WW II Zippo cigarette lighter, only longer. He’d bought it at a second-hand store for fifty cents.

He didn’t now what it was, but it was unusual. It had two holes drilled in the top. One was about a quarter of an inch in diameter. The other hole, also about a quarter of an inch wide, was nearly as long as the item, and in it was a decorative bronze pipe of some kind.

We passed it around, eyed it from every angle, smelled it, shook it and felt its smooth wood finish. But none of us had a clue. We even called the cook from the kitchen, but he didn’t know what it was either. Of course, he doesn’t even know how to fry eggs properly with the white edges burned brown and looking like lace.

We all left the restaurant that morning mystified.

A couple of days later I was in a nearby town and stopped by to say hello to a friend of mine who is the police chief. He was busy, so I checked out the lobby displays, including a glass case that contained old guns and handcuffs and badges of former sheriffsÉstuff like that.

The display also contained some common drug paraphernalia. And there, center stage, was a little block of wood gizmo slightly bigger than a Zippo lighter with two holes drilled in it and in one was a shiny piece of brass tubing.

The office clerk told me that it was illegal to even have one of those things on your person.

The day didn’t go fast enough-or the night either-until I could meet with my fellow world experts and problem solvers down at breakfast. I hoped the insurance agent would drop by for coffee, too.

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