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July 1, 2011

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Malcolm took to Mountain life like a duck takes to water, or perhaps a hog to slop; or insert whatever cornball rustic comparison you want to make.

He bought a cabin on a piece of land beside us and moved in full-time, unlike the Florida folks who come up here just for the summers.

We call the permanent ones “halfbacks,” since they originated in Ohio or some other snowy state and then buy a summer cabin in the Smokies, which often becomes their total home.

“My living room back in Tampa was larger than this whole house,” they like to say. “But that’s okay... the big one was too much so we sold it.” And they became good citizens of our little town, half way back to Ohio.

Most winters we don’t get much snow. And even when we do, like the past year or two, they’ll say some- thing about how they grew up hard, wading through waist-deep snow just to get to school each day. And saying we hillbillies are wimps to let a little snow close schools and offices. All in good fun, of course.

Malcolm had originally come from some place in New England, maybe Vermont, and had taught English at a junior college down near maybe Orlando. Said he couldn’t wait to live full-time in the mountains and have a little woodworking shop.

“What can you tell me about a biscuit?” he asked.

I started a long-winded explanation of my old grandmother’s bread cooked on a woodstove and he stopped me. Turned out he was talking about some way of joining wood with a hidden bit of metal, something he learned from the woodworking magazines.

He was good at questions like that, for which I had no answers. Because I didn’t read those. I get tired of constant television and I do read a lot; he was an ex-English professor so I asked him about some of the books I read. More on that in a moment.

He started hanging around the crafts festivals. My wife dragged me to some of them and I knew a few of the local artisans, simply because it’s a small town.

Dave Barry, famous humorist (and perhaps one of the few Miami residents who don’t have a cabin in the Carolina mountains), once defined crafts as a process where you take perfectly good raw materials and make something by hand that is not only useless, but also hideous to look at. His take still works for me, for most crafts.

Anyway, after looking at all the various crafts items unloaded on innocent tourists, Malcolm decided to specialize in walking sticks. Homemade wooden walking sticks, but done professionally, by the master woodworker person.

Modest purchases soon stocked his workshop. Little stuff we all take for granted – a vise, some sanders, an electric drill. Then he bought a little jig saw at a yard sale.

He said all the fancy stuff he saw for sale in the woodworking magazines would have to wait; he was going to start off slow, and he was on a mission.

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July 1, 2011

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THE CRAFTY HALFBACK

NICE ARTICLE, DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE BOOK THAT DIDN'T MAKE SENSE MOST DON'T. THE WRITERS A TOO WORRIED ABOUT WORD COUNT THEY FORGET ABOUT THE STORY AND THE READERS. THE ARTICLES IN THIS MAGAZINE ARE LIKE READING LETTERS FROM AN OLD FRIEND. A TRUE JOY TO READ.

BRYAN RHODES more than 1 years ago

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