Southeast Iowa lost an important voice. Letting Jeff go was a huge mistake, in a long line of huge mistakes made by the Ottumwa Courier.
In honor of Jeff, I am running a column he wrote a few years ago. It was a column that I really liked -- a simple obituary for an old cookie jar. Jeff had a way of finding the importance in mundane, personal things. That's why he's a good journalist.
The Road Less Traveled: Cookie jar held more memories than cookies
Originally published April 26, 2010
By JEFF HUTTON
OTTUMWA — I don’t have a lot of “treasures” at my home.
I’ve never been one for collecting antiques or knick-knacks. I don’t have the space and I guess I’m not much into sentiment.
Or at least that’s what I thought until I knocked over one of the few antiques I own over the weekend.
My mother was cleaning house last year and gave me her antique 1939 McCoy ceramic cookie jar.
My mother actually won the cookie jar at a small county fair in North Carolina when she was just 11 years old.
And as long as I can remember, that cookie jar had always sat on her kitchen counter in our home in Vinton.
Over time, most of the paint has worn off, there’s plenty of crazing and I don’t ever remember there being cookies in it.
But it was always there, just a reminder, I suppose, of my mother’s childhood and later mine.
When my mother gave it to me, I was actually going to try and see what I might make if I sold it on the Internet through an online auction site.
I did check out a couple of websites, but I couldn’t part with it.
And then earlier this year when Iowa Public Television announced that “Antiques Roadshow” was planning to come to Des Moines this summer, I thought that I might take my mother’s cookie jar to see what kind of an appraisal I could get.
But on Friday, as I was preparing dinner, I carefully moved the cookie jar from the stovetop to the counter.
Sometime during the process of making hamburgers and macaroni and cheese, I must have swung my hand over the countertop and into the cookie jar, knocking it onto the floor.
My heart sank.
There was the cookie jar, broken into a million pieces, or at least enough pieces to make salvaging it nearly impossible.
The jar’s lid survived the fall, but the container, which never held any cookies, but plenty of memories over the years, was destroyed.
I haven’t told my mother yet. I’m not sure what to say.
That old cookie jar, in the end, probably wasn’t worth much monetarily, but now that it’s no longer sitting in my kitchen, I realize it meant more to me than I could ever have imagined.