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Posted on Mon, Sep 28, 2009 : 9:11 a.m.

Monday Mystery Artifact

By Laura Bien

"The carpentered hen unhinges her wings, abandons her nest of splinters, and sings.

The egg she has laid is maple and hard as a tenpenny nail and smooth as a board..."

--excerpt from "A Wooden Darning Egg," from The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures, Poems. By John Updike, copyright 1958, Harper & Brothers Publishers.

Darn, readers had me in stitches with their comments last week. No fewer than 4 people had the right guess of "wooden darning egg;" erksnerks, Lisa Bashert, suem, and Cindy Heflin, It was heartening to learn that this thift-promoting artifact is not such a mystery, even in an age of cheap socks! One commenter even went out of her way to buy, and use, an antique darning egg, at the Salt City antique shop, at 115 W. Michigan Avenue.

This week, however, we have a real challenge--something that has utterly and completely disappeared from use. This artifact is about a yard long and may be found on the second floor of the Ypsilanti Historical Museum. The tip is the important bit, so I here include a close-up of the tip.

This item is now truly obscure, thanks to technological advances. I'll be impressed if anyone guesses it. Take your best guess and good luck!



WINNER'S LIST: 8/3/09: erksnerks 8/10/09: Larissa 8/17/09: no winner 8/24/09: erksnerks, (2) 8/31/09: erksnerks, (3); Larissa, (2) 9/7/09: no winner; honorable mention to goblue18 9/14/09: erksnerks (4), Larissa (3), Janice A., Edward V. 9/21/09: a2dancelady, Mark Maynard, Creative Use of an Orangutan award to Lisa Bashert 9/28/09: erksnerks (5), Lisa Bashert (1.5), suem, Cindy Heflin,

Mystery Artifact is published every Monday on


Laura Bien

Mon, Sep 28, 2009 : 11:57 p.m.

Now, Ed. While I am thrilled that you know about the marsh mallow plant (I'm one of those lawn-eaters) let's not get too silly here (stern gaze). :D

Laura Bien

Mon, Sep 28, 2009 : 3:22 p.m.

cmadler: Another interesting guess, similar to Lisa's. Thank you for reading!

Laura Bien

Mon, Sep 28, 2009 : 3:21 p.m.

Lisa: Hmm. Interesting guess. We'll find out next Monday!


Mon, Sep 28, 2009 : 2:05 p.m.

A pole used by a lamplighter?

Lisa Bashert

Mon, Sep 28, 2009 : 1:56 p.m.

Well it looks just like the candle lighters that were used in the Catholic church I attended as a girl. See the little knobby below? That was a slide to advance the wicking enclosed in the stem.