The Christmas Spirit Strikes…36 months Later

Every once in awhile, we get to do something very cool for someone who really appreciates it.

That happened to me yesterday.

Back when I first started this metal detecting madness, my initial ‘cool’ find was an old railroad switch lock; it was a brass Wilson Bohanon job I’d found back when I first started metal detecting, a few inches deep along an abandoned rail line. I really liked it because ‘WB’ was on the face in raised letters and it was in really decent shape.

Once I got home I researched the lock, even sending an email to the company; they replied the following day, telling me that if ‘Brooklyn. N.Y.’ was stamped on the top loop the lock had been manufactured in 1930 or earlier. It was. They’d moved their operations from Brooklyn in 1931 to their present location in Marion, Ohio….about 40 minutes from me. He also told me all their locks from that period back into the late 1800s were in their website’s online catalogs; sure enough, I found it in the 1930 issue. The Wilson Bohanon representative had wanted to know if I’d like to donate the lock for their lobby display but I respectfully declined; I really liked that lock.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday; I’d listed the lock on eBay and Craigslist. I did so because it had stayed in a box on my basement work bench, collecting dust, since I’d found it. I hadn’t built a display case for it, so I’d be just as happy to sell it to a collector.

Three hours after I listed it, I received a text message from an interested party; it seems his mother’s fiancee was employed by Wilson Bohanon in Marion, and this young man wanted to buy it for his soon-to-be stepfather. He added that the man was a thirty-year employee of the company.

We agreed on a price and a place to meet; however, he would have to wait until his wife got back from the grocery store so she could watch their three children while he met me.

That started the wheels turning. Here’s a young guy with a family, wanting to do something good with this lock by gifting it to someone who would have a true appreciation  for and connection to it. As I drove to the meeting spot later that afternoon, I decided what I would do.

I arrived ten minutes before the young man did. When he showed up, he’d decided to bring his family along in the not-so-new minivan they owned. He and I exited our respective vehicles, introduced ourselves and shook hands. I gave him the lock.

“I found out that Mom’s boyfriend has worked at Wilson Bohanon for forty year, not 30; he started working there when he was seventeen years old” he said, as he reached in a pocket for his cash. I stopped him.

“Listen…its Christmas, and what you want this lock for is very cool; I can’t think of anyone who I’d want to have it more. I don’t want your money.”

His mouth flew open. “Whaaat??!!”

I smiled. “Merry Christmas.”

“I…are you sure?” The look on his face and his sincerity was payment enough.

“Absolutely, my friend. Consider it a gift.”

No sooner did the words escape my mouth did this total stranger, driven by a sense of Christmas spirit and gratefulness, grab me in a fiece bear hug.

His face beaming with a mile-wide smile, he said, “Man, you don’t know what this means! Thank you SOOO much!”

In that very moment, I knew exactly what it meant.

It was the Christmas spirit.

I smiled all the way back to Ram Field Ranch. That feeling…money can’t buy it.

WB railroad lock


Author: timteamohio

Retired cop embarking on new adventures, seeking to recover the history beneath us.

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