Blacksmith at work

Sometimes the brain works in strange ways.

A couple of years ago, when my wife and I were touring Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate in Virginia, we came across this blacksmith (the subject of my photo of the week) hammering hot iron as part of his day’s work.

And in my head I heard: "Under a spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands; the smith, a mighty man is he, with large and sinewy hands.” Those are the opening words from “The Village Blacksmith” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a poem I had to memorize in elementary school.

At that time, in the mid-1960s, memorizing a poem about a blacksmith seemed odd to me. The only blacksmiths I’d seen were on the westerns I’d watched on our black-and-white television. Heck, by the mid-60s it was difficult to even find a spreading chestnut tree after the Asian chestnut blight devastated the population of American chestnuts, once the most dominant tree in eastern forests. And what the heck did “sinewy” mean?

But relatable or not, memorizing “The Village Blacksmith" was an assignment. So I memorized it. And I still remember it … well, I remember how it started, anyway.

Turns out I also remembered a lot that I had learned about George Washington, which made the visit to Mount Vernon a lot of fun. The house and grounds overlooking the Potomac River remain pretty much as they were when Washington lived there from the mid-1700s until his death in 1797.

Besides the house and many outbuildings, the estate includes four gardens with a variety of trees, flowers and plants that provided food for the Washingtons and their workers. There are also horses, sheep, oxen and pigs, animals that Washington raised at the estate. And costumed reenactors, like this blacksmith, can be found doing chores and other activities on the grounds.

The visit made for a very enjoyable day, allowing me to actually put some of my elementary school learning to use. 

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.


Date/time: Aug. 25, 2017, 3:34 p.m.  
Location: 38°42'30.999" N 77°5'10" W (Show in Google Maps)  
Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II  
Lens: Canon EF-S 18-135 f/3.5-5.6 (50mm) 
Aperture: f/5  
Shutter: 1/125th second  
ISO: 3200