March 23, 2011

My fathers walking stick

It all started when I was in high school. My mother came downstairs and told me she had a few things she wanted me to do. One of the chores on her list was the removal of a dogwood tree at the edge of the back yard. I saved that one for last. When I set out to remove it I remembered her order, "Cut it as close to the ground as you can, I don't want to see any stump at all..."

I decided that I would just dig the tree up, roots and all, instead of cutting it down. Once out of the ground, I cut it off about five feet from the roots and knocked off all of the dirt... What I was left with was a rather cool looking display. I kept the tree, thinking it looked like a wizard's staff. I went down to dad's shop, debarked it, cut and trimmed the roots, then stained it. I've kept it all those years.

Periodically I would venture out into the woods, dig up other small trees and do the same thing. It was in this way that I began to learn the root systems of different trees. All of the other trees I did this to I gave away, but always kept this one...

Six or seven years ago I revisited my old hobby...

One Saturday during the Summer I was here hanging out when I decided to go look for a tree to dig up. I saw a limb on a tree that had some interesting twists in it, but was too short for a wizards staff. So I cut the limb down and decided to make a club out of it. I gave this to my brother as a gift...

I decided at that point to make something for everyone in my immediate family. I wasn't carving anything then, just finding interesting pieces, debarking, trimming, then staining and finishing them. I was hooked on the delivery... The looks in their eyes left me with a nice feeling.

When I made my father a walking stick I picked a really nice looking oak limb, climbed up the tree, cut it out, then went about the process... Upon delivery to my dad I was hoping he would like it.. He picked it up, walked around a bit then said, "It's too heavy... Can you get me one that's a little bit lighter?"

I went out and found a smaller tree growing out of a bank, with a good bend for a hand hold... I dug it out, debarked it, cut the roots off, sanded, stained and finished it.. I took it to him after several hours of fussing over it. He walked around with that one and said, "That one is better.. can you make me one with a face or something on it?"

rrrrrr...

The only thing I had ever carved before was a mushroom once in an art class in school. I had a nice set of knives, but rarely used them, and never for carving wood. So I set about attempting to learn how to carve a face. Several days, and pieces of wood later, I figured it out...

I was pleased with the result and several people showed interest in what I was doing.. I have been carving wood and making walking sticks ever since...

When my father passed away in 2008 my mother went over to the door and picked up the walking stick I had made for him and gave it back to me. I had never made him another one with a face on it. The walking stick sat propped against the door jam or his gun cabinet since the day I gave it to him. I took the stick home and hung it on the wall here in a place of honor...

The other day I was looking at the walking stick, noticing all the places I had missed when finishing it, the air bubbles, the runs in the stain... and lastly.. feeling a bit sad because I never made him one with a face.

So I took it down and started working on it.

I carved a face into it on Sunday afternoon sitting on the patio at his house by the table he used to sit at until the wee hours of the morning playing cards. Then I stripped it down, stained and refinished it...

I started to put it back up on the wall, then stopped myself.

I have felt guilty about this walking stick since the day I gave it to him, it wasn't exactly what he wanted. I made the decision that instead of keeping it, I would sell it....



I learned from him for my entire life, and watched him live the way he wanted to. It's time I moved on from the guilt and lived the same way.. The way I want to.

5 comments:

Matt-Man said...

As everyone should. Another wonderful bit of life from you, Clay. Cheers!!

Leslie said...

Bravo, Clay! A very wise and healthy decision on your part. Thanks for sharing.

AveBarnett said...

Very impressive, nice blog. I had two antique walking sticks from my grandfather also.

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