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Found on the ground: An appreciation of an under-appreciated garment, the glove

“Gloves are very interesting. It’s almost like a second skin, because they’ve been with us for so long.”

— Wren Andrews

Gloves. Among garments, they can be our best friends.

Like our second skin.

But like ballpoint pens and travel mugs, they are as often orphaned as they are cherished.

Driving and walking around Hood River and the valley, everywhere I go I notice gloves: in the roads, on the stairs, on the sidewalks, in the gutters.

Lost, forgotten, left behind.

“Antiquity of Gloves”

“How early did mankind think of the convenience of the fingerless glove? Little was said of gloves in ancient times, but in most cases it is obvious that they had fingers. Those worn by the secretary of the younger Pliny, used when he visited Vesuvius, so that he might keep on jogging notes in spite of the cold, must have been fingered, no less than those of the glutton in Antenaeus (in ancient Tuscany), who wore gloves at table so that he might handle the meat while hot and eat in advance of his bare handed fellow diners.”

— Sept. 11, 1912, Hood River News

Gloves do not only keep our hands warm. They protect our hands and protect objects from our hands, like those used at quilt shows and museums to protect fabric or photos, or the plastic gloves a cook or lunchroom aide will use when handling food or helping kindergartners with their lunches.

They might be as important for the back of the hand as they are for the palms or fingers, as Wren Andrews can attest:

“See this red mark here?” said Wren last spring during HRVHS electric car races, holding up a slender but well-traveled hand. “All the skin on my finger got torn off because one of the grips on the handle got turned around.

“I tore the skin even with the glove.

“People buy shoes and pants and clothes but there’s not this huge market for gloves but I find it really interesting all throughout history we see people wearing gloves,” said Andrews, a 2012 HRVHS grad.

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“I don’t sell that many gloves, but I sell a lot of them to orchardists. They buy them every time they stop in,” said Lori Fortune of Big Gene’s Equipment in Odell.

Gloves without fingers are not as common but hold true historic significance, as the September 1912 article in the Hood River News (reprinted below) demonstrates.

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“One of these pair usually lasts about a week,” said Dave “Oz” Ouzounian of Hood River City Public Works Department.

“And it’s good to have a backup because they can go missing,” Oz said.

“I put my initials on every time to remind everyone that’s my pair of gloves.” As the photo shows (left photo, upper row), he carefully draws his distinctive “Oz” emblem on the wrist of his heavy-duty gloves.

“It’s also just fun to put your initials on a pair of gloves,” he said.

Oz, like firefighters, utility workers and farmers, is never on the job without a pair strapped to his belt, if not his hands.

Rick Ragan, a water conservation volunteer in the valley, attends a meeting at the Extension Center and sets down on the table three (well, four) objects: briefcase, coffee mug and pair of gloves.

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The state of the gloves on these pages could fill the lines of a sad country song: tattered, soaked, ripped and ragged.

Sitting in cinders, covered in mud, encrusted in concrete. Run over, frozen, treated like litter.

Call it “Found on the Ground,” about a luckless but noble cast of characters: work gloves, ski gloves, kids’ mittens, bicycle and water sports gloves, plastic disposables, woolen gloves, and leather, too. Often seen on the road or in the parking lot, sometimes the pair of lost and lonely travelers, 20 or 30 feet apart, obviously left on top of the truck only to silently slide off when the driver left the scene.

Gloves: dependable but expendable, imitators of our very hands. No garment so closely resembles the part of the human anatomy they are designed to serve, and yet they are legion, far outnumbering the occasional hat, scarf, sweater or sock among the carelessly jettisoned.

As Wren Andrews said, “People don’t appreciate gloves enough.”

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