To get there at the end of a work day, I had to go over the river, up a long hill and then down a long rutted dirt road that wasn’t particularly friendly to my car, especially in upstate New York winters (or any time of year if you had a drink or three in you). It was even less friendly to visiting friends with low-slung sports-type cars. But it was a beautiful place.

We rented an old carriage house from an art director where I worked. Tom and his family lived in the big house and were perfect neighbors, almost as good as the cattle that wandered by whenever a gate was left open. One beautiful spring weekend we were entertaining friends who’d driven the four-plus hours up from NYC. While we were sitting in the living room catching up with each others’ stories, one of the curious cows came by. She put her head through an open window, looked around, gave a loud moo, and caused one of our guests to spill her just-poured drink all over herself. We were used to visitors like this.

Apparently this didn’t happen very often in the Big Apple.

Our landlord was also an antique dealer. He’d collect furniture from estate sales all over the area and would then load up a truck and drive south, to places where William Tecumseh Sherman had hosted barbeques during that recent unpleasantness known as the War Between the States. Sherman’s March left a void in the antebellum furniture market Tom was able to fill.

He also told us that if we needed any furniture for our place, we could take our pick from one of the three huge dairy barns full of stuff he was storing. We found a dining room set that was absolutely perfect for our needs. We brought it back to our place and installed it in the dining room. Then we noticed that each of the table’s legs – and about half the chairs’ legs – were of different lengths. And it wasn’t the fault of our century-old floor, which was reasonably flat.

We’d discovered a set that, beautiful as it was, could probably never be sold. Tom explained that he’d picked it up as part of a houseful of furniture an old couple had left. As their nineteenth century house settled with age, rather than fix the foundations and floor rot, the old man would simply measure the settling floor and cut off the appropriate leg so that he and his wife could sit comfortably where they’d sat in the 60+ years they’d lived in a home that was probably twice their age.

Expedience is the mother of invention.