Diamonds in the Rough

We’ve all heard those stories of the mystical stash of insulators secured away in some farmer’s barn/shed/basement/whatever. Well, I’m pleased to report that at least one of these legendary stashes is factual! Through one of the members of our photography club, I learned of a farmer in northeastern Kansas who had a stash of around 100 insulators in his shed. They had been there for over 30 years!

My friend Bill said he didn’t know what the farmer would want money wise, but he’d seen the insulators, and most of them appeared to be in good shape – although rather filthy. I took a gamble, and told him I’d give the farmer 40 bucks for the lot. Well, the farmer was delighted to get a little extra cash (probably needed it, too), and get the insulators out of his shed.

At the January photo club meeting, Bill rolled in with the insulators all neatly packed in a box in the back of his pick-up. These are all pretty common (mostly Hemi 9’s and 12’s), and yes, they are unbelievably dirty! After 30plus years in this farmer’s shed – wow! Chicken feathers, spider nests, mud-dauber nests, and who knows what else! There’s gotta be a gem in here someplace!!

Here are a few photos of the insulators, along with a little "narration" as the cleanup process begins!

Here's the box of insulators in the back of the Wondervan. As you can see, several of them still have wires attached. They look relatively clean here, but just wait…….

If you've never picked up a box of 100 insulators before, be warned - they're HEAVY!! Of course in this case, at least 10 pounds was probably dirt & mud dauber nests! By the time I got this up two flights of stairs, I had to sit down and wheeze for a few minutes. Guess I'd better get in shape before I tackle any poles!

Here's a closer look at the box of insulators after I (puff, pant, wheeze) carried it up to my office/computer room/disaster area. At this point, I haven't started digging into the treasure trove. Looks like there's some pretty nice color already!

Isn't this great? At left is a Hemi-12 that has served as an apartment for mud-daubers! I don't know what the little critters do to the mud when they "daub" it, but this stuff's hard as concrete! At right is a dirty Hemi-9 with a patent date of May 2, 1893.

Here's another example of mud-dauber construction techniques. Thankfully, these "apartments" have been unoccupied for some time. After thirty plus years in a shed in rural northern Kansas, I wasn't quite sure what was going to crawl, jump, or fly out of these things. Of course, there aren't a lot of creepy-crawlies stirring in the middle of January!

Here's a Hemi-17 wearing the wire it held up so many years ago.

This looks absolutely painful! This Hemi-12 has worn this rusty wire for who knows how long?

Free at last!

This little clear Hemi-9 cleaned up beautifully! At left is the before photo. It still has wire attached. If you look closely, you can see a mud-dauber nest inside. Who says bugs don't like the clear ones? At right is the same insulator after just a little bathing, and a good scrub with a toothbrush. Just a little soaking turns those mud-dauber nests to…. well….. mud!

Wow! I got so excited when I saw this little CD-102 pony, I ran into the bathroom, and started cleaning it immediately! This Brookfield seems to be in perfect condition with no chips or cracks that I've been able to see. It still needs a little cleaning, and maybe a bath in muratic acid. At right is the raised lettering on top of the insulator.

Here's a CD-121 with AT&T markings on it.

Looks like someone used it for a hammer! David Dahle wrote me and suggested that's what all those little dings are. Ouch!!

The inside if the AT&T. As you can see, it's still a diamond in the rough!

I'll be adding another page in a few days, when the cleaning process begins in earnest, so be sure to stop by frequently. Except for the Brookie and the AT&T, these are all Hemingray 9s and 12s with one 17 thrown in for good measure. They are all common - no peacock 162s or purple anything, but there are still some gems here. This is part of what I enjoy about the hobby - finding a cache of dirty insulators, and seeing them come to life after a good cleaning. Truly "Diamonds in the Rough."


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Text and photos © Rod Shelley, 1999