Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A clock out of time...

It was weathered and beaten by the years when Dad found it, but it was no ordinary clock. This clock was made in the mid to late 1800's in Germany. An original Black Forest Clock. It was fashioned in the chalet style, wooden carvings that depicted various animals caught and bound by imaginary hunters decorated its face and a royal stag with five point horns graced the top at the point where the eaves joined.

It wasn't colorful like many you can buy today. No little children came out to dance and spin. Only a little bird popped out of small wooden door to say cuc-koo. It had only two hands to tick off time. No second hand, as perhaps times were slower when the clock was crafted.

Which is amazing when you consider how technology is used today to wittle away the seconds in our daily race of life.

But I digress, back to the clock.

We found the clock while living Germany. (Dad was in the Airforce and we lived in Zweibrucken.)

A series of chains, pendulums, bellows, pipes, springs and weights caused the clock to run. The ends of the chains were weighted by what resembled metal pinecones.

When we got the clock, some of its animals had fallen off, the stag's left rack was snapped, and the chains were missing.

Dad worked at fixing the clock. He reset the animals on the face. Glued the poor stag's rack back on so he could reign over his small realm with dignity. Then he hunted for the proper chain.

One would think that task would be realitively easy considering we lived in Germany. But... he found a chain that seemed to work, only the links were slightly off so the inner workings of the clock were unable to count the moments right.

At the time, that meant little to me. I just like it when Dad set the chains then ran the hands around to make the cuckoo bird pop out it's little door and cuc-koo the hour.

But soon, even that failed to work.  The bellow were torn from age and the spring wasn't as taut as it should be. Even though it didn't work, the clock still hung of the wall like a quaint piece of artful history. People were intrigued and wanted to know about the clock. It had a story all its own and years of research still hadn't told the tale. We told them what we knew. But most of all, they wanted to hear it cuc-koo.

When we moved from Germany, the clock was wrapped and placed in a box. It moved in and out of the box for a time as we traveled from duty station to duty station. Dad continued to hunt for the right chain, but his endeavors failed. He tried chain after chain one was too heavy, one, the links were too big, one, too small. The moments ran fast or too slow.  Without the proper chain, the clock ticked off irregular beats.

When my father passed away in 1994 the unworking clock hung on the wall. With noone to turn the hands or reset the chains, the hands stopped turning and the bird stopped cuc-kooing. The clock, like my father, had become silent only the memory of what the clock could do remained.

The clock's existence changed then, it was either stored in a box, or relegated to the wall of the garage.

Then my son decided to finish what his grandfather had begun. He fixed the bellows, tightened the spring, reset the broken animals, and the stag's horns that had fallen off again. We hung the clock in a place of prominence.

Unfortunately, we never found the right chain either. Oh we could manipulate the chain and get it to run some, and get the cuckoo bird to visit. But it just wasn't the same, the weak bellows tended to rip, the stag's horn was cockeyed and loose, and we grew tired of resetting the chain and hands, perhaps we didn't have the patient that Dad had.

I don't know if the clock will ever be fixed. But maybe... that's just as well.

Looking at it, its hands locked in a moment from long ago. I wonder if they haven't stopped in some wonderful place where time moves slowly, where life was lived in ticks and tocks of minutes, where the stag on the clock is young, where the bellows are filled, where my father stands before the clock adjusting the chain, turning the hands just so, and the little bird comes out to sing.


Tina Pinson said...

If you are unable to leave a post please let me know.

Kathleen L. said...

What a lovely post, Tina. It reminds me of my babysitter when I was a child. She had one of these clocks. Sounds like the same one--pine cones, birds, chains, the whole thing. I loved the memories this evoked.
What patience it must take to restore such an intricate thing.

Tina Pinson said...


Thanks for stopping in.

I love the clock. Unfortunately, I'm nowhere near as patient as my father might have been. My son and I even checked for someone to repair the clock.
But it's back in the box right now, stored in mom's garage I think. Or hanging on the wall there.

I just remember dad trying to fix it. It's a lovely memory. The little bird looked somewhat pathetic, but he has a proud cuc-koo, when it works.

Tina M. Russo said...

That was really a wonderful tribute to your Dad and the legacy of the clock.

I think everyone stationed in Germany bought one of those darn clocks. I know we had one. I wanted to shoot that bird.

Lori said...

Tina, I could hear you talking in your posting. You really know how to make things come alive. It was good to know a little bit more about your dear family. This is my first blog experience!!

Kristin said...

Wonderful story and reminder Tina!

Anonymous said...

The story is beautiful! I enjoyed the walk down memory lane. Most of all, I am amazed. I did not realize that was what Dad was doing. Janice

Anonymous said...

Beautiful story, Aunt Tina. There is a wonderful short story here in the making. I beleive with some fine tuning of the grammer, and some tense changes, you could have this piece published. Very well done.


Diana Mitchell said...

It's so wonderful to reflect on our parent who has gone on before us. Your Dad was so loving to his family and your love for him is evident. It also seems fitting that you posted your family story on Veteran's Day. Thank you.

Tina Pinson said...


I appreciate your stopping by. I know I'm terrible at keeping up with my blog, but I hope you stop by again. Besure to come by next month as we're having a teasure hunt across a few blogs.

And you get the chance to win gifts.

Anyway, it was good to have you stop in.