Photos by Doug Ricketts
A mailbox is just a mailbox, unless you are an artist with visions of sculptural forms, and pandemic time on your hands.
Our old mailbox, weathered and sagging, needed to be replaced, and I wanted a signature piece, a calling card out at our entry. After a consultation with mail carrier Debby about the practical needs, and a mock-up using scrap wood, I fired up the plasma cutter and the welder.
The resulting Prairie Wind Mailbox, at 8 feet tall and several hundred pounds, shows the way at our drive. Daughter Lindsay declared that we are the only people she can think of that would need a tractor with a front-end loader to install a mailbox.
Since we live up in the corner of the Texas Panhandle, the mailbox needed to have some special weather-dictated features: a heavy wind-proof door, a flag that would stay up regardless of high wind, and a special “ice hammer,” that Debby can use when the box is encased in ice. The only carryover from our old box is our mail rock that serves to hold the mail in place when the door is opened, preventing letters from being blown to Mexico or Canada, depending on the wind direction.
The Dempster windmill vane had been a fixture high up on our kitchen wall, years after we had replaced the little 6-foot Dempster mill in a nearby pasture. So it is fitting that the vane served as the first design element for the kitchen remodel, determining the shape of the blackened steel vent hood, and becoming an access door to the vent mechanicals.
Many other projects intervened for a long interval before the design possibility presented in the form of a scrapped Gleaner-Baldwin pull-type combine.
Full of packrat nests on the inside, and with rusted shafts, bolts and bearings, the combine salvage became a drawn-out, dirty grind. Due to all the rust, nuts, bolts, and shafts had to be cut; and thousands of rivets drilled and punched out. But the rust had also worked some magic on all the sheet metal panels showing ghost patterns of angled bearing shrouds, braces, and access ports.
Backed by blackened steel, the panels now clad the tall front counter wall of the kitchen, topped by a cast concrete counter. Next came blackened steel backsplashes and laminate counters. Topping it all off is the LED lighting frieze/soffit fronted by the combine shrouds, guards, and ports. A fiberglass and mica lantern serves as the main lighting fixture.