Inventory – Cones

136, 7″ cones

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The Drive

We left home last Thursday afternoon.  The weather was below freezing and snow covered the ground.  We missed a blizzard that closed I-29 by a few hours.  This was Sioux City when we drove through before Friday daybreak.  We had decided to not drive through the Twin cities and Chicago due to both the blizzard and the congestion.  This was a great choice even though it added many hours onto our trip.  There was barely enough room on the Interstate in west Iowa in some places for our trailer to fit…

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Driving through Iowa and Illinois the weather warmed.  Some grass was greening…

Our biggest concern was in crossing the mountains of eastern Ohio, northwest West Virginia, and eastern Pennsylvania.  It was work for the truck with the empty trailer as it was…

Saturday daybreak we were through the I-76 tunnels and heading downhill on some steep grades…

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Weather was beautiful in Pennsylvania.  Grass was green.  Trees were leafed out.  The tulips and daffodils were in bloom.

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Loaded and moments from leaving for home.   We got sunburned on Monday morning…

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High winds and steep grades (6% was the worst) some lasted for miles through Pennsylvania.  Caught our first sleep in western Ohio for an hour. Then through Indiana into Illinois where we slept for a luxurious 2 hours during sunrise.  Messed around in Iowa looking for a Post Office, and a nap in a rest area with trucks hauling wind turbine blades that we paced off at over 160′ a piece.  Into South Dakota for our first real meal of the trip when on the road…Tuesday evening at a family restaurant…home cooking!  A couple of cat naps in South and North Dakota during the night.  Clear weather all the way home on Wednesday until a half hour from home where the skies poured rain.  We tarped up before heading down our gravel and parked in 6″ of mud in our yard

Returning 6 hours north into Canada we passed through the Duck Mountain along Hwy. 83 which runs all the way from Swan River to Brownsville, TX…

And the view of Thunderhill where we live, from the north…

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Our homeward trip was much slower than our trip to Pennsylvania, and for good reason.  Indiana’s interstate was clearly the worst stretch with pavement breaks, followed by the second poorest roads along I-80 through Iowa.  But the worst road of all was the Ditch road west out of Swan River where we had to crawl to keep the trailer from destroying its load.  We encountered good weather with the exception of our last half hour home which was rain.  Once home I coated the entire machine in WD-40 to displace the water that got into the gearing and crevices.  It dried over night in spite of freezing temps, and we uncovered it and backed it into our quonset shed this morning as the ground had frozen hard last night which allowed us to drive through what had originally been a mucky mess the day before.  Nearly 60′ of rig…truck and trailer.  The trip required 91 hours of driving, 45 hours out, 51 hours returning, and covered 2,200 miles each way.  We slept along the road each way…about 6 hours going out and 8 hours returning.

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We felt it was a gift to us to be able to drive it into our shed this morning; this time of the year is so fickle.  The trailer and loom are now safely under cover and awaiting the pouring of our concrete in another month.  I can’t wait…lots of planning and prep to do in the mean time…

Leading Up To And Purchasing The Loom

A couple of months ago while working on a hand loom I was suddenly and forceable reminded of three men to whom I was pastor twenty four years ago when I moved my family to eastern Massachusetts.  I had not gone there to serve a church…I had gone there to begin my doctoral program at Boston College in religious epistemology.  Just before our move we had been contacted by a struggling congregation and asked if I would be interested in simultaneously serving them.  Following some discernment I said yes.  Two of the members of that church had been Draper employees, but by the time I arrived they had been retired already for over fifteen years.  While working on a hand weaving project I was reminded of them as I wove and I remembered with fondness standing outside the Draper factory as they told me their stories of having worked there (oral history was one area of my research/training).  Later that day I went on line and looked up Draper and even more came to mind.  Over time I read more and more.  I had no thoughts about purchasing a Draper loom at that time.  Over time I began to feel somewhat haunted by these men…people whom I had not seen in twenty years, but who kept tapping on my shoulder as I wove.  After a couple of months of this I sent off an email asking to speak with Peter Eaton who had restored one of these.  I really had no idea why I wanted to talk.  When I got him on the phone, and finished asking my questions, I was floored when he said that his loom was for sale…that they did not have the time to maintain both their weaving and their leather-making. He said that they were asking $2,500 for everything – control box, loom, quill winder, bobbin winder, tension box, etc..  I talked with my wife.  We decided to buy the machine.

So last week we started 2,200 miles east and purchased this restored and fully functioning Draper Model D power loom on Sunday, March 27, from the Eatons who live outside Lancaster, PA, USA…

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We broke it down into the castle and base…

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We loaded it on Monday March 28 and started our 2,200 mile trip home at 2 p.m….

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Weavers & Friends Along The Blackstone

map-largeFor the four years that we lived in New England while I was working on my doctorate we would go for walks and bike rides with our children and friends along the banks of the Blackstone river in southern Massachusetts.

It’s a beautiful, textured geography, especially in the fall with all the oranges, reds, and yellows…the rich mix of various varieties of New England hardwood trees on display.

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The Blackstone river drops more per mile than any other river in New England, an average of nearly ten feet per mile over its entire 460 mile long course.   That fact doesn’t mean much to us today.  But in pre-industrial America mill operators powered their mills with water from rivers that had a fast flow rate.  This river is the cradle of the American industrial revolution.

I am thinking of all of this because the other day I was reminded of three brothers who I knew quite well there: Robert, Harold, and Howard (Hoppy).  By the time I knew them – over twenty years ago – they were all long retired.  The first time I was in Robert’s home he said, Let’s go for a walk.  And he took me a couple blocks from his home.  And we came upon this…

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It’s the Draper factory/mill in Hopedale, Massachusetts.  This factory is not on the actual Blackstone river.  But it is a part of the Blackstone river watershed and shares in the river mill history of the region.  As we walked he told me about the 130 year history of the factory, the work that was done in each area, the people who worked there, and what he and his brothers had done over the course of their lives there.   In the early 1800’s Ira Draper, a local farmer, made an improvement on the Moody power loom and began to manufacture them.  With the invention of the Northrop power looms in England, Draper became wildly successful and then the largest manufacturer of power looms in America until the factory closed its doors in the mid-1970’s:

Here’s photos of the plant taken from the Blackstone river, showing the river passing under the power plant of the building…

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Mill River going through the Draper Manufacturing Plant

 

All three of these men – my friends – are now dead. But they are not gone from my mind.  I now wish that I had paid much more attention to them, to Hopedale, and the stories that they told.  And I will be thinking of them as I load my warping board today.  It was an honour to know them.

Here’s a clip showing power looms in action in the movie Norma Rae, a film about union organizing in a southern textile mill in the 1970’s, starring Sally Field.  The movie won her an Oscar.