Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thursday, Aug.6

Thursday, Aug. 6

I missed breakfast(didn't hear the alarm) but got an early start to go see the sights.  The first place I went was the Warther Carving museum in Dover.  It was absolutely fascinating.  Ernest "Mooney" Warther (1885-1973) was a self-taught (2nd grade education only) brilliant man and has been called the "World's Master Carver" and I can see why.  As a young child, he found a penknife in the road and spent a lot of time whittling, becoming quite expert at it.  He made caged balls with chains, carved from one piece of wood, canes, and wooden pliers.  His calling card became these wooden pliers, made by strategically placing 10 cuts in a rectangular piece of wood (nothing removed) and they would actually open and close flawlessly.  He could make one in 9 seconds and did so for free to give any children he met.  He even appeared on the Johnny Carson show once to show this skill.  He soon discovered that he could put 10 more cuts in each of the handles of the pliers and make 3 interconnected pliers.  He continued this process, knowing just the size and shape of the initial piece of wood that was needed.  The picture shows one of these and the shape and size of the original block it was cut from underneath it.  When he was 22, he had a
vision of a plier tree that he would make that would have 511 working pliers made from a single piece of wood; he calculated it would take 31,000 cuts and predicted exactly how long it would take him to make (a little less than 2 months).  This is a picture of that tree on display at the museum:  It was displayed at the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1933.  Math professors from Case University came to study the tree and said it would be impossible for someone without an advanced degree in math or engineering to do this.  I guess Mooney Warther liked doing the impossible!

When he was 14 he got a job in a local
 steel mill where he worked for 23 years earning a living and learning to forge and temper steel.  At age 28 he decided to carve the history of steam which fascinated him.  Starting with Hero's steam engine (250 BC) and ending with the Union Pacific Big Boy Locomotive of 1941, he carved 64 models which depicted the evolution of the steam engine and trains.  At first he carved walnut and bone but as he could afford better materials, he went to ivory and ebony.  His trains were all to scale and exact in every detail and he mechanized them so all the parts moved!  
Amazing!  One of his train models had 7332 hand- carved pieces (and this wasn't the largest!).  Early on in his carving career, he became dissatisfied with the knives available to carve with so he designed and made his own.  They had a wooden handle that fit perfectly in the palm of his hand and dozens of interchangeable 1-inch blades that fit into the handle.  After he
 quit the steel mill, he turned to making and selling kitchen knives to support his family (he never sold any of his carvings --- he would only give them to friends or museums).  The family continues to make Warther Kitchen Cutlery to this day.  I bought a paring knife---haven't tried it yet.  
Mooney's wife, Frieda, collected buttons and arranged them into beautiful mosaic works of
art.  They are on display in the "Button House" on the museum grounds.  Another hobby that Mooney and Frieda shared was collecting arrowheads which Frieda arranged into 18 mosaic-like panels which adorn the ceiling and walls of Mooney's 8 x 10 foot workshop.  Frieda also loved to garden and the grounds of their property (where the museum is now) still have beautiful gardens.

As you can maybe tell, I was truly enthralled with the story of Mooney Warther's life and his accomplishments.  I spent 3 or 4 hours there and took over a hundred pictures (not to 
mention the video tape and books I got describing his life).  When I finally left there, I lunched on free cheese samples at Heini's Cheese Market, spent 2 hours at an Amish Flea Market (just like a swap meet in San Diego with lots of very inexpensive stuff, mostly made in China), and got to Yoder's Amish House too late to see the house, but I was able to do the Schoolhouse tour and the Barn tour.  During the schoolhouse tour, I learned the surprising (to me, anyway) fact that the Amish all speak Dutch at home and don't start learning English until they start school which is entirely conducted in English.  In school they study German as a foreign language because their bible is written in and all their prayers are in High German.  Later I learned that in the part of Holland where their ancestors are from, the language was a variation of German so that part made a little more sense.  The 23-year-old teacher had been teaching since she was 16.  She was not required to have any additional training or preparation to teach beyond the 
8th grade education that all Amish children have.  In the barn tour, the best part was the family dog playing (?) with a little kitten that had been born there.  Just after I took this picture of the
 kitten on the edge of a water barrel, watching the dog drink, the dog gave the kitten a little nudge with his nose and she fell into the barrel, only to climb right back out up the dog's nose!  I really thought I got a second picture showing that but I guess not.  Anyway, it was priceless.

I got back to the campground just 
in time for the hot dog barbeque dinner, the kazoo sing-a-long to old Mitch Miller songs (my Mom used to listen to him!), and the giving out of Roadtrek souvenirs.  Most of the other 
Trekkers went on a buggy ride afterwards, but I
 wound up talking with Sarah, a wonderful Amish lady selling baskets she made at a little stand next to my Roadtrek (I was in site #1).  She looked about 16 but had 3 kids with her (10, 8, and a 4-month-old baby girl.)  I would have LOVED to take a picture of them, especially the baby who was adorable in her little bonnet and dress, but the Old Order Amish (which she was part of) don't want their pictures taken.  I couldn't help but ask how old she was and was quite surprised to hear that she was 32!  (Maybe never having your picture taken makes you stay young-looking?)  She did tell me that she was 
the first (and I think only) Amish woman to give birth to triplets!  Her triplet boys (9 years old now) were born when her first son was 11 months old so it was really like having quads!  And since her daughter is now 8, I guess she was born when the triplets were about a year old, so that would make 5 babies 2 or younger!  Another fact I learned (the next day actually) was that the Amish do not use strollers or baby carriers.  I'm not exactly sure how she managed that with 5 babies!  But they are a very community-oriented group so I guess her friends and relatives helped.  I hope so --- she has no indoor plumbing and the baby was wearing cloth diapers.  Later the 8-year-old girl told me that in addition to the triplets and the 2 siblings who were there, she has 3 OTHER brothers and sisters (ages 2-7, I figure).  That adds up to 9 kids---and I swear she looked like a child herself!  Amazing people, these Amish.

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