Fremont County, Iowa

Blacksmith Shop
by Jerry Birkby

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of March 1, 2010

In 1950, the year I started High School, my parents built a new house, the old one having been heavily damaged by a tornado the year before. Charlie Orr was their carpenter.

Charlie had a blacksmith shop in Knox for many years before he took up carpentry (and Coon hunting) full time so he had many a story to tell about Knox. In the years before I was born and for a while thereafter, which is to say through the years of World War II, Knox had served as a principle loafing place for all the farmers of the community. To this day I can remember some of the stories that were swapped around the heating stove and feed sacks, but there must be countless thousands that have vanished in the mists of time.

It has been said of Charlie that he would tell you something five or six different ways to keep from lying to you and I know for a fact he had a passionate regard for the truth--as the following will readily attest.

"One day I was kind of caught up in the blacksmith shop so I decided I'd go over to the store for a spell. I went in and got me a sody pop and went on to the back and set down by the nail kegs," Charlie began. "Well, I hadn't anymore than finished my pop when the door opens and in steps that old Floyd Birkby. Now I know he's your relation and all, but you know yourself he plays awful fast and loose with the truth sometimes. Some says it runs in the family, not that I believe it for a minute, but it is awful hard on a fellow like me to have to take.

"Sure enough, he hadn't anymore than stepped in the door when he outs with the most awful old stretcher you ever heard in your life. I says to myself, 'Well, he's at it agin. I just wonder how much of this we're going to have to endure,' and that give me an idea.

"They was a brand new keg of 20 penny spikes that had just been opened setting there beside me so I fished out one of them spikes and dropped it in my pop bottle. "'Now,' says I, 'I'll just drop another spike in this bottle ever time he tells another one of those clinkers.'

"So it went that whole blessed afternoon. He'd tell one of them awful stretchers and I'd fish out a spike and drop it in my pop bottle. And you can believe it or not, but they was times when I pert neigh had two spikes in the air at oncet. I never spent such an afternoon in my life. I thought I'd lose my mind. And I want you to know that before that man left I'd dropped that whole blame keg of spikes in that pop bottle."

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Page updated on May 10, 2017 by Karyn Techau