Home Archives
Monthly Archives

September 2015

Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil – SOFA

by Richie
Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil – SOFA

smith 1

Troy, Ohio
View Map

Once again we have made our annual pilgrimage to the Blacksmith Convention in Troy, Ohio. It’s held about the same time as more devout pilgrims are heading to Mecca, but unlike the Hajj there are fewer casualties at SOFA.

Here at the Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil meet, avid members (who I affectionately call The Dirty Pants Club) can swap tall tales of rusty iron conquests, watch demonstrations of advanced smithing techniques, and select goods and bads from an array of bearded venders. And so the warm and sunny afternoons this weekend were spent ambling around the fairgrounds in search of tools for this antique trade. A long list of rusty supplies was procured and stuffed into the motorhome, including a spanking new 110 lb. anvil that even I thought was pretty cool.




The keynote speaker for the conference, what little he actually did say, was a lean and lanky gentleman from Alabama who demonstrated foundry casting. He and his team poured a couple hundred pounds of fiery molten iron into a casting mold to create a signature anvil for SOFA. It took a whole day to cool, and was presented to a long-time member of the Ohio club.


This large gathering of Smithy’s is located at the Miami County fairgrounds in Troy – a vast and sprawling complex of white-washed buildings, horse barns, and trotter practice tracks. SOFA takes up the entire north side. At the main gallery in the center, artists and pretenders can display their hand-forged items and compete for rewards and recognition. Tim was feted with a Third Place ribbon, a cash prize, and a round of applause for his entry of Assorted Door Hardware.


I lucked into an estate auction on the far end of the fairgrounds on Saturday. The departed was a gentleman from Dayton, and obviously a Mad Scientist of the highest order. He had amassed a collection of radio parts and equipment from the 1930s thru the 1960s that was unparalleled in scope and size to anything the auctioneer or audience had ever seen. I’m talking oscilloscopes and Geiger counters and naval telescopes and tables filled with every voltage meter ever invented. There was a device inside a steamer trunk with such strange knobs and tubes that I was sure it was a time machine. It was the best auction I’d ever seen and I happily stayed for hours. Bought a bunch of cool old stuff, including a brass telegraph key from 1876 that may turn out to be a very special artifact indeed. It will all be catalogued and placed for sale at my Etsy vintage store soon – www.Booth88.etsy.com



And if you’d like to peruse Tim’s prize-winning blacksmith items, you can visit his store at www.dancingmantis.com


0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +Pinterest

Melody Lake

by Richie
Melody Lake

Melody Lake


Went to an auction looking for antiques. Bought lake property instead.
Whaaaat! How did that happen?

The morning began clear and bright, perfect for wandering around a farm auction. Tents were set up and household items were set out on long tables. Next to the little brick home, in a choppy mown field, rusty farm implements were spread out in long rows. There was a crowd of 100 or so locals shuffling around, picking through the items. I was browsing for antiques. Tim was in search of a blacksmith anvil.

The auction began promptly at 10:00, with the land and home to be sold first and then the contents. We were seated under the big tent and frankly I wasn’t paying much attention to the auctioneer, as he was obliged to read aloud several pages of legal hoo-haw.

Tim poked me. “They’re auctioning lots at Melody Lake, too.”


I’ve spent most of the summer cruising around Melody Lake, occasionally scamming a swim at their private beach – in other words engaging in some Mild Trespassing. It’s a private resort community – a stunning area with a clean, clear lake and lovely homes dotted around. It had been rolling around in my head to buy some property there, if only to have swimming privileges.

Melody Lake is just a few miles from our house and was developed in the 60’s and 70’s as a waterfront resort. It has about a hundred homes and 13 miles of graveled roads that loop around a 60 acre lake. The area is very similar to lake camps found in the Adirondacks. There’s a beach, campground, swimming pool and clubhouse. And remnants of a one-time golf course.

But sometime during the 1980’s the area fell into disrepair. The contractor went belly up, roads and buildings were neglected, some undesirables moved in and a couple of drug busts occurred. Melody Lake developed a notorious reputation. Owners got disgusted and moved away, the resort floundered, and then the area slipped out of the local consciousness and was mostly forgotten.

All that nasty business was 30 years ago, and since then the community has turned around and become lovely again. But an entrenched prejudice against the place is still present among the local populace. When I asked around this summer about Melody Lake I heard three common answers:

 “I haven’t been there since I was a kid.”
 “Didn’t that place go bankrupt?”
 “It’s all druggies up there.”

But being a newcomer and holding none of the local grudges, I didn’t share this opinion. What I saw was a fabulous lakeside community, neat and tidy and inviting. So I grabbed a plat map from the auctioneer and studied the three lots for sale and found that I knew right where they were – about a five-minute walk from the beach I’d been visiting all summer. lake 2


The auction started and the lots were offered for such-and-such per acre. Silence. The auctioneer lowered the starting bid. Crickets chirped. He lowered the price again. No bids from the audience. I could hear people around me muttering: …drugs…bankrupt…when we were kids…

Boldly I stood up and hollered a ridiculously low price for all three lots and the auctioneer slammed down his gavel and said, “SOLD!”

Then I had to go explain to Tim (who had vectored off looking for anvils) that we had just bought property at Melody Lake…Whaaaat!

We spent the rest of the weekend riding around the lake (beautiful), inspecting our lots (wooded), and taking tours with friends (astonished).

Don’t know yet what we’ll do out there. Maybe doze a driveway for the RV. Maybe get a little boat. Or maybe build a lake cabin.

Meanwhile, I’m going to stay away from auctions!





0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +Pinterest

Old Hickory Lake

by Richie
Old Hickory Lake


Cedar Creek Campground
Old Hickory Lake
Mt. Juliet, TN
View Map

Just past Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage estate is Old Hickory Lake. It’s really a misnomer because this isn’t a lake at all, but a vast flooded valley of the Cumberland River. It’s a large body of water, twisting and turning for miles of coves and side branches, with the main river channel running ever deep through the middle.

Here we have settled under towering pin oaks and beechnut trees at Cedar Creek Campground – a Corps of Engineers (COE) property. As I have often mentioned before, COE camps are always a delight, being spacious and shady with generous green spaces between.


Our campsite rolls down a gentle lawn to the lapping shore of the lake, where our cousins have conveniently beached their pontoon boat. Nearby blue herons and great white cranes poke about in the weeds, and the air is soft and mild.

It’s a real treat to cruise this placid lake in a swanky boat! Our cousin, Mark, has a depth finder on his console, and we were astonished to realize that most of the water is only 2-5 feet deep. Then, within a yard or so, the depth suddenly plummets to 60 feet as we cross into the main channel of the Cumberland River. Barge traffic carefully picks their way through the channel, guided by giant buoys – green on the right, red on the left. It’s a bit like a Connect-The-Dots game to keep on course! BOAT

We’ve spent a couple of days lolling around camp, trying our luck at fishing for croppie, and eating our way extravagantly through the evening. Forking over twenty bucks at a nearby marina got us a fishing license for 3 days, and so far I’ve caught one $20 fish. It was a small bluegill – “Just enough to stink up a piece of bread,” said Mark. Cousin Wanda had better luck, catching a couple of good sized red ears.


The camp has a lovely sandy swimming beach and today I may forego harassing the fish, opting instead for a float in the water. Or maybe just some knee-high wading like the blue herons.



0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +Pinterest