|Out of habit, as the Elkhart County Courthouse clock struck 11 on a recent morning, Blake Eckelbarger took out his cellphone and compared the time.
The century-and-a-half-old mechanism in the middle of Goshen trailed the timekeeping of his GPS satellite-aided phone by a minute. Thankfully it's an easy fix, he explained as he tinkered with the brass-colored gears and pins of the green-painted machine his grandfather and great-grandfather once cared for - a minute fast would mean advancing the hands through 11 hours and 59 minutes to set it right.
It's not the time it takes that's the hassle, since that's only 20 minutes, but the fact that he has to stop and wait for the bell to ring as an hour goes by every 10 seconds. It's the same story when he has to advance it one hour along with everyone else's clocks one
"Now it should be OK for another couple months," he remarked, before going into the usual weekly routine of oiling and inspecting the mechanism. It's a job he's had since 2000, when he happily took the offer to bring it back into the Eckelbarger family.
Eckelbarger's great-grandfather, Zena Eckelbarger, took care of the clock from 1923 until his death in 1941. Eckelbarger's grandfather, Dan Eckelbarger Sr., then held the duty for the next 50 years, into his 80s.
He remembers going up there with his grandfather on occasion, but didn't really learn how the clock works until he trained for a couple years under Hosea Jump, who held the contract since 1991 and who asked if he wanted the job. He still had to rely on Jump's expertise for another four or five years whenever an issue needed troubleshooting.
His duties, in addition to the weekly checks, include periodically making sure the clock faces are free of things like leaves or dead birds and that the bell and hammer are in good shape. Once a year, he spends a whole day disassembling the clockworks so he can lubricate the shafts and polish the gears.