DARKNESS AND RED-HOT HEAT and banging of metal against metal…
My husband and I have stopped here on a mid-week October afternoon during a brief get-away. By chance, we have found this life-long blacksmith in his shop where anvils and vises, buckets and axe and tools of the trade crowd the brick-floored space.
While Tom rapid-splits wood for a forge fire, I scan this grimy room with a good luck horseshoe clamped on brick above a neatly lined shelf of corralled chisels.
Standing here in this time, in this place, with a man practicing the aged craft of blacksmithing seems almost surreal. But Tom has been doing this all his adult life, relocating from Maryland to open his Pepin shop in 1983 with his wife, Catherine, a tinsmith.
She’s a native of Minnesota, just across the river, and an artist, too, who crafts tin cookie cutters by hand. Catherine is known for her commemorative Laura Ingalls Wilder cookie cutters in a community that each year celebrates its most famous native daughter.
Surely blacksmith shops existed in this area during the late 1860s when Charles and Caroline Ingalls lived with their family in a cabin in the Big Woods near Pepin.
History holds this town. And Tom looks every bit the part of a long ago craftsman, untamed white beard and longish hair and period cap and suspenders giving him the appearance of a historic reenactor. But he is authentic, hand-forging locks, hardware, tools and candle fixtures.
I almost expect Charles Ingalls to walk in the door.
FYI: For more information about T. & C. Latané, as this couple calls their business, click here. The shop at 412 Second Street in Pepin is open from noon – 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, May – December or by chance.
© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling