The Blacksmith Shop

Gerry Goode

A very essential business, especially for farmers and horse owners, was the availability of a blacksmith shop. The shop was located three miles away at the town of Fredericksburg. We would ride our horses that distance where Chris Rheinhart had a shop just a short distance from Blue River. My brother and I rode two of our horses to have this important service performed.

I always loved to hear our dad give instructions for us to be in charge of a task equivalent to adult responsibility. The only reason I was permitted to go was because my oldest brother had been assigned an important task at home. In the afternoon he would be helping put up hay at a neighbor's farm.

There was a feeling of excitement as we rode the three miles on the gravel road to Fredericksburg. The pleasantly warm mid day and the joy of being on a horse was exhilarating. It was the kind of happy that you could hardly contain.

When we got to the shop my brother gave instructions to the blacksmith according to our dad's wishes. One horse was taken into the shop,       and the second one was tied outside to a shade tree while waiting his turn. The blacksmith lived near the shop and had just returned from having lunch.

We had been given a little spending money when we left home. So the next order of business was to walk the short distance to Roll's combination grocery store/gas station just a little past the bridge crossing Blue River. We entered the store and ordered a cold bottled drink. I ordered Orange Crush. It was my favorite even though it didn't hold as much as some of the other bottles. It came in a distinctive dark bottle and was always so refreshing. We stayed in the store till we finished our drinks and left the bottles. We ordered double-dip ice cream cones. A total purchase of fifteen cents each for the cold drinks and ice cream cones. I had money left to save.

We walked out into the warm afternoon, happily licking our ice cream cones as we paused on the bridge walkway. We passed a little time looking down at the sparkly, shining water as cars passed along behind us.

The shop appeared very dark as we walked in from the bright sun. The smithy had selected the shoes required and was in the process of heating them up in the forge. He was a very muscular man with large strong hands to perform the task awaiting his skill.

At this point, I believe the blacksmith needed three hands. He operated the bellows with his left hand as he was turning the shoe with his right hand. The horse-shoe was formed and shaped meticulously. The bellows brought air to the coals to increase heat. As the shoe was turned in the hot coals it glowed red.

The shoe was held over the anvil and formed with a hammer. It was submerged in a bucket of water to cool so it could be held to the horse's hoof to check the proper size. Steam ascended into the air and a loud pfsssssst! emitted from the bucket. After checking proper size the shoe was returned to the forge for additional heating.

As the shoe rested in the coals the smithy paused to pull a soiled handkerchief from his apron. He wiped away the trickling moisture from his brow just below the sweat band. In addition to the heat produced by the forge was the added leather chaps worn for protection from waist to shoe leather.

After repeating this heat cooling process the shoe was again held on the anvil. The timing of the blacksmith's hammer resounded with a melodious, rhythmical, repetitious ringing--shoe, anvil, shoe, anvil, shoe, anvil.

The intense work of the smithy, combined with the tethered horse's eagerness to be out of the hot, semi darkness and noise in the cramped space created a dramatic moment. The smithy stretched his body to full height after being intensly bent over for so long. Even the horse let out a burst of air, relieved to have all four hooves on the floor. 

I was thankful my older brother was working for a neighbor that day or I wouldn't have had the wonderful experience at the blacksmith shop.


Gerry Goode has been a member of Writers Block for seven years. She would recommend anyone interested in writing to attend future meetings at the Salem Public Library to hone their writing skills. We are an informal group where members share their work. Gerry is currently writing memories of her childhood beginning in the 1930s when it was a kinder, gentler time.

Winter is a good time to do the things we put off till long winter days keep us confined. Join us soon and multiply our enjoyment while sharing your writing skills.



Please Login for Premium Content

Site Login Help

For current subscribers to The Salem Leader and The Salem Democrat, you can login to the site using the following information:

Username: Please use your full email address associated with your account
Password: Please use your last name. Passwords are case sensitive, so please capitalize your last name (eg: Smith)