Unwanted wishbone collection serves as a reminder of days past

After collecting wishbones for more than 10 years from the chickens he eats with his wife, Jim Dow, 68, in his fabrication shop in Hartford, Vt., on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, decided to offer them up in an ad on the Goods-UV list serv.

After collecting wishbones for more than 10 years from the chickens he eats with his wife, Jim Dow, 68, in his fabrication shop in Hartford, Vt., on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, decided to offer them up in an ad on the Goods-UV list serv. "I’m at the Dick, Jane and Sally Level of computerness, and I really miss the It’s Classified paper," said Dow. He thought a teacher might want the 62 chicken bones, and one turkey, for a kids project, but has not yet gotten a response to the ad. "It just seemed like a sin to throw them in a furnace without at lease attempting to find something else for them." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

On September 12, Jim Dow, of Hartford, placed this ad on the Goods-UV list serv,

On September 12, Jim Dow, of Hartford, placed this ad on the Goods-UV list serv, "Does anyone have use for sixty two chicken wishbones? As a bonus you would get, also, one turkey wishbone." Dow's foundation of experience in buying and selling was in newspapers and the weekly "It's Classified" publication. He has been less successful with online ads and listservs and customers forego a phone call in favor of a request for pictures of what he is selling. "We'll probably just commit them to the furnace and make some BTUs out of them if they don't go," he said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News – James M. Patterson

Three months after placing his listserv ad and getting no interest, Jim Dow bags up his collection of wishbones in his West Hartford, Vt., shop on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Three months after placing his listserv ad and getting no interest, Jim Dow bags up his collection of wishbones in his West Hartford, Vt., shop on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

By ALEX HANSON

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 12-17-2023 11:42 PM

HARTFORD — This story is about chicken bones. More specifically, it’s about wishbones, a key part of a bird’s skeleton that helps it fly.

For some time, Hartford native Jim Dow and his wife, Susan Buckholz, had a CSA share at a farm in Springfield, Vt., that included whole chickens. Every time they roasted a chicken, they would later boil the bones for stock. For reasons he’s not sure of, Dow took the wishbone from a chicken and set it over the rim of a cup on a kitchen windowsill. He did that with every other chicken they brought home and cooked, for a decade or so. The bones accumulated.

Most objects, however large or durable, eventually have to move. Dow and Buckholz, a lawyer and a former state rep, have a policy of removing one item every day from their home off the Quechee-West Hartford Road. It was time for the chicken bones to go.

A decade ago, Dow might have offered them in It’s Classified, the now-defunct weekly classified newspaper. Instead, he braved the computer and put them on the “Goods-UV” Listserv. Here’s the post, with everything but Dow’s phone number:

“Does anyone have use for sixty two chicken wishbones? As a bonus you would get, also, one turkey wishbone. Phone and make offer. Located near W. Hartford.”

That was back in mid-September. The only people to come look at them were a photographer and a reporter from Valley News.

Why in these times of strife would journalists devote precious attention to a pile of dried chicken bones? Dow wondered that himself.

It’s often the case that multiple questions are worthy of consideration, so here’s another: Why would someone save those bones, and then be so reluctant to dispose of them that he first offers them to the public?

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Dow wasn’t sure why he saved them, but had an idea. Now 68, he grew up a stone’s throw from where he lives, on a farm. His parents each had two children of their own when they married, and Dow was the first of four more, so it was a big crowd of kids of all ages.

“There was always a frenzy as to who got to break the wishbone,” Dow said.

So there’s an attachment to the familiar shape, a link to the past, a memory. It’s seldom plainly stated, but a hallmark of human behavior is the assignment to material things a spiritual dimension.

To get them out of the house, Dow took the bones out to his heated shop, where they sat on a shop rag on top of a Woodstock Soapstone gas stove that he’s trying to sell. To pick up a wishbone is to be reminded of a bird’s lightness.

Dow’s shop looks like it’s been in use for decades, but it’s only about as old as his wishbone habit and his dog, Daisy, a sleek, 10-year-old mutt. He ran his own concrete pumping business for many years, having realized early on that he wanted to work but wasn’t suited to hold a job. With the shop, he now welds and repairs machinery, part-time.

“Jobs are getting farther and farther apart,” Dow said, “because I don’t go looking for them.”

The shop clearly belongs to a collector, of bones, of tools, of fasteners. It wasn’t exactly tidy, but it was well-ordered, so Dow knows where things are. A big work table by the door held a jumble of items. On the edge of the table by the stool Dow sat on as he spoke were copies of “The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History of the American People,” by Alan Brinkley and “The Cold War,” by John Lewis Gaddis.

Atop the table was a deerhide stuffed into a plastic shopping bag.

“It’s kind of the end of a sad story,” Dow said.

The deer had been taken some years ago by a boy Dow had a hand in raising.

“He was about 8 years old and he just kind of latched on to me,” Dow said.

Since he raised beef for his freezer, Dow was not a big hunter, but went through the hunter safety course, then traded for a rifle the boy could hunt with. After the deer was skinned out, Dow took the hide down to Reading, Vt., to get it tanned.

That boy grew into a young man, and that young man died in August. “Substance abuse,” Dow said.

The deer hide came back to Dow. What does that object mean? A lot more than three score and two chicken wishbones.

Since no one else seemed interested, Dow scooped the wishbones into a paper bag and handed them off to the journalists, who were glad to have stopped by.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.