Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Monday, July 5, 2010

Sleigh Forgotten


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: We sometimes imagine sleigh bells, but few of us have heard the sleigh jingling past; fewer still have been pulled along the ice track behind a Cleveland Bay or a Morgan horse in jingling bells. Like the song of the organ grinder and the whoop of the steam locamotive we seem to remember that sound as if we had actually heard it, while we assemble its memory as if in dream.

Once, long ago I thought I heard a real sleigh with bells. I was walking through the narrow streets of Greenwich Village in Manhattan, flakes dropping slowly through the windless heart of a severe winter storm. The city felt unusually quiet and personal, streets hushed in white; the sleigh bells approaching were clean and friendly, and it didn't matter that when I turned to look it was the tire chains on the city bus trundling by with a few accountants and city desk editors who had worked too late.

Two winters ago I took a photograph in the field outside this hay barn that led Jane into a reverie about Paul Gage the harness maker and the way he made sleigh bells. It was included in an earlier TODAY'S. When I took that photograph I had no idea the sleigh from Jane's dream was fifty feet away in the hayloft of Misty Morning Farm.