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Friday, September 16, 2011

Standing In A Giant's Hoofprints: Bob McCarthy's Anvil Dedication Saturday

22 - February - 2009 -- Coins

There's a saying that gets tossed around a lot in leadership-by-design books. It's often spouted from the stage by commencement speakers. The words, attributed to Sir Issac Newton, appear on the edge of every British two-pound coin. Newton is said to have said, "If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."

I'm sure you understand precisely what this saying means. We have progressed further than those who came before us, because of their tremendous height--height in humanity, height in perseverance, height in sacrifice or bravery or intelligence or ability. And, in some way, the giants gained their height too by the act of lifting up the next generation, sometimes by not even acknowledging that that is what they were doing, even as they did it.

British two-pound coin
For the most part, these giants exist in people's memories. Each of us knows who the giants are--or were--in our lives. But sometimes we see the ghosts of the giants, or I do.

I remember seeing a ghost at farrier Eddie Watson's funeral in Virginia, an overflowing funeral home with three chapels--all three filled with the three F's of Mr. Watson's life: friends, family and farriers. At the Hunt Club reception afterwards, there was a tiny lamp; he had forged the beautiful base. It burned brightly, though it was the middle of the afternoon, and the paper shade was a warm color. As people jostled around, that little light kept burning. I think I know why it was there, and why it was turned on.

Another time was when the horseshoers at Saratoga lost several members of their fraternity in one year. To commemorate the loss, they set up an anvil and a tree as a little memorial garden outside the blacksmith shop behind the Oklahoma Training Track. A lot of people came to the dedication ceremony, all for different reasons, and in memory of different people. We stood and stared at a little sapling tree, and beyond.

A tree was planted in Saratoga.
I felt that way in 2008, when Cornell's farrier shop was remodeled and then-resident farrier Michael Wildenstein sank into the concrete of the floor shoes made by the instructors who had come before him.  And he made sure that Buster Conklin, the only one still living (at the time), came in to have his photo taken in the new shop with his shoe in the floor.

We all have ways of remembering people who've made a difference in our lives, and we carry them around in and with us in different ways. But sometimes people care enough, and are creative enough, to make an extra effort, to call out for a gathering or a photo session or a special place to set up a little lamp, because it's important.

Bob McCarthy behind his anvil in the blacksmith shop his family ran for most of the 20th century.  (Photo links to Medfield Patch)
Saturday afternoon will be one of those times. The senior statesman of Massachusetts horseshoers, Mr. Bob McCarthy, died last year. His wonderful blacksmith shop in his little town has been torn down. A forge stood in that spot for almost 200 years but now there's a parking lot. But someone cared enough to do something to mark the spot where Bob spent his days--spent his life, in fact.

We all had to start somewhere, even Myron McLane, and he was lucky enough to start with Bob McCarthy. Myron bought Bob's 225-pound Eagle anvil years ago when the shop closed, and now has prepared it as a monument on a special granite base, surrounded with a mosaic of inlaid horseshoes made by farriers who were influenced by Bob, and who cared enough to make a shoe in his memory. There will be a few of Bob's shoes in there as well. The town has approved the monument and the dedication.

Bob's anvil will be dedicated at 12:30 on September 17 on Janes Avenue in Medfield, Massachusetts. Everyone is welcome. Just ask anyone where Bob's blacksmith shop used to be. It's the kind of place that, even though it's gone, is still there in a lot of people's memories, and now an anvil will mark the spot.

It doesn't seem so long ago that a giant stood in that very spot, and behind that very anvil, the one that Bob's father bought in 1931. If Bob stood there on Saturday and looked down, he'd see the beautiful workmanship of the farriers who stand today on his shoulders, farriers who haven't forgotten who helped lift them to where--and who--they are today.

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