As a craftsman I place a significant amount of value upon the various tools required to create things or provide services. Many tools are a basic necessity for my work, among them only a select few have intrinsic values bestowed upon them. Today two very special tools arrived in a wonderful Easter parcel sent by my mother. One is a small hand broad axe and the other a Latthammer. A Latthammer is the tradition style of hammer used in Germany by Carpenters, Joiners and Roofers. It has a square striking face while the other end sports a pointed spike. The spiked end is intended for various purposes such as maneuvering hard to grasp lumber and timbers, or as a steadying and climbing assistant around the building site.
This hammer and axe came into my possession on a rather sad note. My father passed very suddenly and unexpected in late January of this year. I feel fortunate that I was able to be at his side before he passed, and to be there to console my mother and siblings. While helping my mother to adjust and settle back into her new environment I discovered the axe and hammer carefully stowed in their respective places on the wall of my fathers work area. It is said that a smell or taste can evoke memories from ones childhood. Seeing the hammer hanging on the wall immediately brought to mind my fathers words and the image of his powerful hands deftly making the hammer sing as it drove nails into place.
Of these two items the hammer is most significant, my father brought this with him when he and my mother immigrated to Canada from Germany in 1961. It was the hammer used in building their house in the 70’s, a tool my father cherished and used with delight. He admired it’s quality and would proudly display the polished unmarred striking face which had driven countless thousands of nails through 5 decades of rigorous use. Seeing the hammer hang there I immediately envisioned a new purpose for it. Rather than become a dusty relic among the many other forlorn tools on my fathers wall it will be the hammer used in building our house this year. A fitting legacy bestowed upon a simple tool.
The axe brings to mind a different perspective of the tools on our family farm throughout my childhood. It is one of the countless tools acquired from the many small farm auctions that occurred throughout the 60’s and 70’s. A sad reminder to the demise of so many family farms at that time, the loss of a unique and sustainable lifestyle and the institution of mega-farms, quota’s and government intervention. This like so many other tools became an item used on a daily basis to accomplish specific tasks prevalent on a busy small farm. In some respects these tools were used somewhat inappropriately for their designed purposes however they did accomplish many task. This axe was designed to be used as a tool for finishing hewn timbers or other refined chopping tasks mainly involved in log and timber construction. On our farm it ended up being used as an all round chopping tool including making kindling, chopping wood, de-limbing trees and of late to help peel poles for my mothers trellises. The tools on our farm where always respected and well cared for, something that our father instilled upon us. I quickly rummaged through the old shed and found some appropriate tools for my mother to use as a replacement to this axe. This wonderful tool will become my right hand when I refine the timbers and logs for our house this summer.
I miss my father greatly, his appreciation of life, hard labors and deep love for his family are profoundly rooted within me. These tools are an Ode to his hard labors as he forged out an existence for his family amid the wilderness of central Alberta.
In loving memory of my Father …. Heinrich Krieger …. 1933 – 2013