A gadget is in the eye of the beholder

A magazine I subscribe to runs an occasional feature called, "What is It?" Readers send in a photo of something they've bought at a flea market or antique shop but can't identify. Some items were used for household or farm chores decades ago, some turn out to be only part of a larger piece of equipment, others remain anonymous. In our house, such identification wouldn't be a big concern, since many of the things we own aren't used for their original purpose anyway.

Years ago, someone gave my father a revolving tie rack. Daddy seldom wore a tie, so he probably didn't own more than one or two. Definitely not enough to need a tie rack. It was put in a drawer and pretty much forgotten. Until Mother decided it would be perfect for hanging measuring cups and spoons in the kitchen.

So she nailed it to the wall above the stove, and there it remained until the house was sold. I got so used to having spoons and cups hanging over the stove that when I moved to a place of my own, one of the first things I did was go out and buy a revolving tie rack for my kitchen.

Another kitchen implement that's gone far astray from its original purpose is a large kitchen fork. It came in one of those sets of utensils that include a potato masher, large spoon, spatula, and pancake turner - all hanging neatly from another rack above my stove. For years that fork hung there without ever being used - until once when I needed to get something at the back of the top shelf, just out of reach.

I grabbed the fork from its hook and used it as an extended set of fingers to snag that elusive object. I've long since forgotten what it was I retrieved, but ever since then whenever there's a can, box, glass - whatever - just out of reach, out comes the big fork. Maybe someday I'll figure out a good use for the potato masher.

Then there was the tall, cracked, and faded crockery jar that held an old umbrella, pieces of pipe, and stray bits of lumber in our garage. The day we had a yard sale, somebody ventured into the garage and saw it sitting in the corner and offered me $5 for it. Sold!

I found out later our umbrella stand had started life as a butter churn. I was glad to get rid of it, and I suppose somebody thought he'd gotten a real buy. Considering the crack down the side, I just hope they never try to put milk in it.

Then there are the skateboards. I'm not sure why, but at one point in my husband's relatively sedentary life he decided he wanted a skateboard, so he bought one. Then he found another one he liked and he bought it, too. So now we own two skateboards, neither of which has ever made more than a trial run on a sidewalk. But they sure come in handy for moving things: chests of drawers, rolls of carpeting, filing cabinets. With a skateboard on either end, I can move almost anything single-handed.

In our house, creative usage even extends to the dog. One Christmas we gave Misty a new water dish. When the gift was unwrapped, she was delighted. A new toy! She turned it on its side and rolled it around the living room, having a wonderful time chasing it back and forth.

After a few hours, I took the dish to the kitchen and filled it with water, while Misty watched with great interest. Now it was time to show her the real use for her new dish. Misty had other ideas. I'd barely placed the water dish on the floor when she grabbed it in her mouth, turned it on its side (flooding the floor in the process), and rolled it back into the living room. My mistake - it wasn't a water dish at all, it was a toy! We gave up and bought her another dish for water.

Other items have done alternative duty on a temporary basis. Like the time the hummingbird built a nest in the ivy on our front porch. When the ivy started growing outward with the nest dangling precariously at its end, I worried about the safety of the babies, so I commandeered a large floor pillow as a safety cushion. For weeks that pillow sat on our front porch, much to the puzzlement of the mail carrier. When the babies finally left the nest, the pillow was cleaned and returned to its former place in the family room.

So whenever I see the "What Is It?" feature in that magazine, my imagination is fired. I may never learn its original purpose, but I can think of several things I could use it for.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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