A Treadle Wheel:
Dad and I made the trip from Laceyville, Pennsylvania, to beautiful upstate New York through the farmland to pick up an old-time treadle wheel. I found the treadle wheel on Facebook marketplace for a great price. I always wanted to try one, and to have one would make my pottery off-grid. It was a stand-up treadle wheel that was rather large and heavy, with a one-hundred and twenty-five-pound flywheel.
The previous owners were very kind and were more than happy to sell the treadle wheel to me as they knew it would be going to a good home. We tipped it up and rocked it back onto the truck bed in the rain. Dad and I made the trip back, which was a great day out for him. As a farmer in the past, it gave him an opportunity to scan the landscape and comment on the corn crops, soybean fields, and farm equipment. The overall assessment was that the corn and crops were dry, and much of the beautiful land was not being used for farming anymore.
The ride was filled with great stories as Dad’s memories of milking cows were jogged. We stopped at a town diner to eat. Dad named it the “Disgruntled Employee Diner” as the staff was about to close up early due to having short help, and they seemed rather agitated. They gave us no menu but asked what we wanted. Dad decided not to cause any trouble and said he would just have a burger and fries like that guy by the window, and I said the same. The disgruntled waitress wrote it all on her pad and slapped down the slip at the grill where the cooks were. I think ours was the last order for that day. The staff scribbled out a closed sign and taped it to the door.
Once we made it back to the pottery, we rocked the treadle wheel off the truck and set it on the ground in the driveway. We made it spin some. Everything worked great still, but Dad and I could tell it needed to be greased up, some bolts tightened, and a few parts needed to be reattached. Dad thought I could put the grease gun to it as the zerk fittings to the bearings still worked. I felt delighted and could not wait to get it inside, make the repairs, and start practicing making pots on the new old wheel. Dad wondered how many pots I would need before I made good ones on it. I thought at least a hundred. Dad said the bearings still looked and sounded good. I would just need to push the old grease out with new.
The next day I tried my first pots. I threw ten one-pound mugs first. It took getting used to, as any movement made showed up in the thrown form. Any uneven speed or movement of my hands if unsteady, due to pushing the wheel treadle with my leg, made a few wobble rims and uneven pulls, and even a few bottom heavy mugs. I hand lifted the pots off the wheel head onto a board to take a look. I enjoyed the change already from electric to the foot-worked treadle. Likewise, I enjoyed the look of how the pots were beginning to turn out. I had ninety more to go.
I was in the middle of making work for my Fall show. I decided to push out the rest of the pots using the treadle. As time passed, I found the whole manual process relaxing. By pot fifty, the forms were starting to come in. I decided to try some larger pieces with some soft clay. I also took time to watch Simon Leach on his wheel throwing and his techniques on how he pushed the wheel up to speed and when he let it coast. I then threw a few five-pound casserole dishes and pie plates. By pot ninety, things were going well, but it slowed down my pieces per hour by half. I believe I needed to slow down. It felt great and relaxing to push out work off-grid with my new old treadle wheel fidget spinner.
I sent a few images of the treadle pots to a few friends, and they found the look to be quite nice. While I don’t depend on compliments to make work, I find them enjoyable to hear at times. You can also get them from Darrel every Wednesday morning from 7:00 A.M to 10:00 A.M. down at the Wright Choice Diner in town.
Every Wednesday morning from 7:00 A.M to 10:00 A.M., Darrel Cline sits at the corner table in the Wright Choice Diner with a coffee in his brown 80s corduroy suit, matching vest, and wing-tipped shoes, handing out compliments. Darrel worked jamming radar in the Navy. He wears the medals to prove it. You can see them pinned on his suit coat.
Darrel then spent his time after in the sky putting up towers for television, radio, and phone signals until he decided to retire one windy day way up and simply came down, leaving it all behind in a rather sudden fashion. Some say his tools are still up there on the last tower he worked hanging, and with a good pair of binoculars, you can see them from the lookout up on old route six.
”Your nails look beautiful today, Missy!” says Darrel as his coffee is poured.
”Why, thank you, Darrel. That is very kind to say.” says Missy
“Stressed, blessed, and nail obsessed!”
” You got that right, Darrel!” laughs Missy.
At 7:00 A.M., a line starts to form with folks getting coffees to go before work. It’s the perfect time for Darrel to hand out compliments like candy. If you’re new to the Wright Choice, the kindness can catch you off guard. If you’re a regular, you know to drop your change into the cup marked “Darrel’s Compliments” next to the cash register. It was the least folks could do to honor the veteran and contribute some to his coffee refills.
”You do a great job with the mail, Robby! It was all folded real lovely in my mailbox.”
”Hey, thanks, Darrel. We work mainly for Amazon now. They don’t like us taking too much time to care. But for guys like you, we fold it up nice.”
” The mail must go through! No matter if it rains or snows, the mail must go through.” sings Darrel.
”Haaaaa! For sure! You got that right! You have a great day now, Darrel.”
Next up was Jimmy Carter.
”Hey, it’s Jimmy Carter! Great job drilling those wells!
”Morning, Darrel! Thanks for your service. Your medals look great this morning.”
”Thanks, Jimmy, but because of you, everybody can get a drink as there’s lots of water in the sink!”
” That’s a good one, Darrel.” laughs Jimmy, tossing a few dimes in the cup at the counter.
”You stay happy and warm, Darrel. It’s getting cold out.”
”Will do, Jimmy! Work safe!”
I was next in line—one large coffee with cream to go. The wind was blowing the leaves of Fall outside, and the air was crisp. It made the inside of the Wright Choice feel extra cozy today.
” Hey, it’s the pottery guy! Those last mugs you made up looked great! Loved the blue!”
”Hey thanks, Darrel. I hope you have a great day. Are you getting ready for winter? Seen the price of fuel was supposed to be high this year.”
”Yes Sir! I got the heating oil locked in. Your right about everything being sky-high. Thought I was still up in the towers. It’s supposed to be a cold one. It’s always great to see your mug around here.”
”Haaa! That’s great, Darrel. You be well, and I’ll see you next Wednesday.” I say, dropping some change in the cup.
While Darrel was handing out compliments to one and all, out back on the old rickety wooden steps of the Wright Choice, big Jimmy the cook was getting ready to hand out a bit of retribution. Two big dump trucks almost ran him off the road on his way in. And by luck or fate, there they both sat parked down back, out by the tracks.
Big Jimmy reached into his pocket and pulled out the valve stem remover he always carried in case he needed to even things out a bit if life was made cruel by others. A dog barked in the distance, and a lonely train whistle could be heard as big Jimmy relived a few tires of air.
Now there may not be a Darrel or a big Jimmy, but somewhere, someplace, someone was spreading kindness without working at it to hard. We may be able to choose what we put out but can never be sure of just what we will get back. This is my town and my story. So I get to tell it how I like.
Creek Road Pottery L.L.C.
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