My sisters and I used to climb our wild cherry tree. I’m the little one that still needed help. I remember it as a big tree, but it doesn’t really look very big in the photo. Maybe everything looks big when you’re small. The tree got hit by lightning in the historic 4th of July storm when I was 8. The tragic tree death was reduced to firewood stacked up on the side of the shed, and Dad kept handling it and commenting that it was a good, hard wood with a pretty color. He started carving.
We had an old anvil bolted onto the workbench in the garage. The anvil was a relic from Mom’s string of blacksmith ancestors. Dad clamped a chunk of our tree in the vise, and happily banged at it for hours. The first attempts weren’t spectacular, but they were interesting and functional. He got better at it the more years he banged away in the garage, and at some point the wild cherry wood wasn’t used in the fireplace any more.
…Which is not to say that I have Dad’s skill with things with sharp edges. When I was little, Dad gave me a jackknife, and Mom took it away. This happened a bunch of times, and I’ll admit Mom had good reason to take my knives away even if Dad seemed to think whittling was a necessary part of childhood. It just isn’t one of my better skills. I’ve quit counting my hospital visits and figure my artistic endeavors should remain 2-dimensional.
That doesn’t mean I don’t ignore this lesson sometimes. I used to live at a place that had a big barn full of feral cats and lumber. I’m from the era when girls weren’t allowed to take woodshop, so my only training for the table saw was from public tv shows and an ex-boyfriend who told me I wasn’t allowed near his tools. He was probably right about that, but when confronted with a barnful of wood, I decided to give it a shot and made a plant stand.
I suppose if I actually had taken woodshop, I might have a better idea how to make a plant stand, but no, I learned how to make peanut butter cookies and a blue stuffed dolphin in home economics. I nailed my creation together and felt pretty pleased with myself – until I picked it up by its top and the top popped off. I found wood glue, screws, and screw plugs in the barn and made more plant stands. Just like Dad’s carving, I got better.
After the world was littered with plant stands, I made bookshelves, ottomans, and a coffee table. I’m not claiming that any of this stuff was good, but I made them and felt happy. The pinnacle of my woodworking success was a bench. I was feeling so pleased with myself, I decided to carve it too. 7 stitches later, the bench looked pretty good and I quit woodworking. I feel the temptations sometimes. The wood calls to me. I can envision really great walking sticks in it, but somebody else will have to make them. I really don’t enjoy getting stitches.