This pitcher and I have a history. The first time I saw it was after an elderly aunt asked me to feed the cats and dog, gather the eggs, and take care of the chickens while she was recuperating from a broken hip. Every morning and every afternoon for over three months I walked up the hill toward the old homestead to “do the chores,” and I would see this pitcher way up in the loft window of the barn, perched rather precariously on a huge pile of what appeared to be just junk. Even from that distance I could tell that the pitcher was old, and I often thought what a shame it was that it was part of my family history and it had just been thrown away.
One morning my aunt told me that the barn was going to be torn down that afternoon. She had hired one of the neighbors who had a bulldozer to knock the building down. When I asked what was going to happen to the pitcher in the loft window, she told me that anything out there was worthless and would be taken to the dump. She seemed amused that I thought the pitcher was worth saving and told me I could have it if I wanted to climb into the loft, but I would have to get out there before the neighbor arrived to start his demolition.
I am absolutely terrified of heights so it was a real stretch that I would even THINK of climbing up into that loft to begin with… and an indication of how strongly I felt that the pitcher deserved a rescue. Maybe it was because no one else cared what happened to it… but a few minutes later I found myself at the top of the loft ladder, scared out of my mind and almost afraid to move… and trying to figure out how I was going to make my way through all the stuff in front of me. What my aunt apparently didn’t know (and I certainly didn’t) was that there was no actual floor in the loft, and that individual pieces of boards had only been put here and there across the rafters to support the piles of junk… or that these boards would shift and move when I stepped on them. I was already partway across the expanse of loft when the board I was standing on shifted and my foot actually went down through the gaping hole. There was no way I could go back, so I continued on, crawling over corrugated roofing, broken chairs, and old milk cans. By this time I was absolutely terrified and the “floor” behind me had ceased to exist. I had, however, reached the pitcher and was sitting in a relatively stable area. I couldn’t help thinking how ironic (and stupid) it would be if I rescued the pitcher and got myself killed in the process. My ordeal actually ended quite quickly after that when I managed to find a long board on one side of the junk pile that looked sturdy. By pushing it in front of me like a bridge, I managed to crawl my way back to the ladder and safety… with the pitcher… and me… both unharmed.
I never told my aunt about the floor or how frightened I had been, and when I showed her the pitcher, she said it wasn’t worth the effort… partly (I think) because it hadn’t belonged to HER family (she was my aunt only by marriage), but also because she never had an interest in anything from the past. The pitcher is in excellent condition, about fourteen inches high, and originally it would have had a matching bowl. A “backstamp” on the bottom states that the pitcher is Ironstone China and that it was made by J.&G. Meakin. Because the word “England” is also part of the backstamp, I know the pitcher was made after 1890 but before 1914 when the required wording would have been “Made in England.”
That means my rescued pitcher is over one hundred years old. It sits on top of a primitive-style cupboard in my kitchen, along with some older and more valuable jugs and bowls. This particular pitcher is memorable to me, though… it’s the only one I risked my life to save!