‘Sal­vage Arts’ done for cen­turies by in­dus­tri­ous Pa. Dutch

Fru­gal farm­ers would take strands of use­less bailer twine and prac­ti­cal door mats

The Southern Berks News - - LOCAL NEWS - Richard L.T. Orth A Look Back In His­tory

Among the most log­i­cal waste items on a dairy or cat­tle farm were the many strands of bailer twine that were left over af­ter open­ing up bales for bed­ding or feed­ing hay to live­stock. Usu­ally hung on a nail in the barn feed­way, said cut bale twine could not be used again by the bail­ing ma­chine. Thereby, some­one must have re­called an early farm art of braid­ing dried corn stalks and weav­ing them into a sim­ple oval braided rug for use at the farmer’s back door to re­move mud from shoes. Very prac­ti­cal while be­ing fru­gal, it seemed very log­i­cal to farm­ers in the Lobachsville area in that one could take mul­ti­ple strands of use­less bailer twine and braid them in a tail to be sewn into spi­ral oval mats as early corn­stalk braided mats.

How­ever, for­got­ten, is who was the first farmer in Lobachsville and area that be­gin to sal­vage bailer twine by mak­ing door­mats, but old Will Shade whose farm was on the Lobachsville Road to New Jerusalem was well­known for braid­ing a sub­stan­tial amount of these bailer twine rugs.

An el­derly Dutch gent, who prided him­self for not wast­ing pocket money, he and his wife, Het­tie once op­er­ated a pop­u­lar food restau­rant at the Read­ing Fair to sup­ple­ment their mea­ger farm in­come in the 1950s. With snow white hair and I’m told a gift to gab (with any­one), Will could talk one into buy­ing some­thing from him they had not in­tended to pur­chase. John Le­ven­good also, who owned a dairy farm along­side the Lobachsville vil­lage store and cream­ery, was per­haps just as smart at mak­ing these prac­ti­cal bailer twine rug mats, although he and his wife Min­nie, the vil­lage church or­gan­ist, were very con­ser­va­tive with their coun­try sales.

John and Min­nie be­came com­fort­able with their life in the vil­lage of Lobachsville and each tended to their farm­ing chores and hob­bies which made them very con­tent.

Not as sim­ple as they ap­pear, these braided bailer twine mats were sewn with the braid tail on edge pro­vid­ing a mat sur­face that was about 3/4” thick. And rea­son­ably priced, these “sal­vaged art” cre­ations stood the test of time to a lot of wear and tear at one’s back door, and pro­vid­ing a coun­try look, in­stead of a rub­ber tire re­tread ap­pear­ance of door­mats in re­cent years. Peo­ple did like the fact that they were braided as the old-time braided rag car­pets, and per­haps the re­cy­cled ap­peal, cou­pled with pride in one’s abil­ity to make some­thing of worth out of less mean­ing­ful ma­te­rial also pro­moted an in­di­vid­ual re­spect of our Mother Earth cer­tainly ap­pre­ci­ated in the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch cul­ture. This sim­ple craft pro­vided healthy ex­er­cise for se­nior cit­i­zens in win­ter­time and main­tained a move­ment to be bet­ter keep­ers of the en­vi­ron­ment lim­it­ing man­made wastes.

As most en­ter­pris­ing Oley Val­ley farm­ers, Will Shade was a huck­ster who took the pro­duce of his truck patch to his neigh­bors and lo­cal vil­lagers, as Fred­die Bieber did ped­dling bas­kets on his lit­tle scooter, and peo­ple trusted his judg­ment and the qual­ity of his craft at rais­ing fruits and berries, etc. In these 1960s, when the Amer­i­can econ­omy was rea­son­ably sound, in­dus­tri­ous PA Dutch in­di­vid­u­als could put ex­tra cash in their house­hold bud­gets by just be­ing wise and thrifty. Farm women, ad­di­tion­ally, could of­ten bake home­made pies and bread to sell to neigh­bors and line their prover­bial “cookie jar funds,” which sub­se­quently bol­stered their stan­dard of liv­ing.

How­ever, those fru­gal male farm­ers who sought to turn mean­ing­less waste into prof­itabil­ity were of­ten thought of as mi­sers and not viewed in the same light as de­li­cious Dutch treats their wives cre­ated. Hence, the idea of the “fe­male sal­vage arts” among Dutch women who of­ten never threw any­thing away, did turn ma­te­rial cloth scraps into beau­ti­ful patch­work quilts much more ap­pre­ci­ated and per­haps a pre­de­ces­sor adapted by their hus­bands in these prac­ti­cal door mats.

Fru­gal Will Shade was one who prided him­self on tak­ing mul­ti­ple strands of use­less bailer twine and braid them in a tail to be sewn into spi­ral prac­ti­cal oval door mats as early corn­stalk braided mats.

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