When I was much more active as a nautical carver than I am these days, I’d be asked why I was not on the coast. The simple answer was family. Normally I’d cleave to the shore and be done with it. My wife wanted our kids to be close to family, so inland, we went. Not wanting to admit to the simple truth when a good story was in the offing, I’d tell outrageous lies at boat shows. Like; climate change. I expected my home to be shorefront property in ten years. It was before we had better estimates of coastal flooding. I feel a bit less mendacious about these tall stories now when friends on the coast see their shoreline nibbled away.
I soon found some great reasons why a carver should live where I do – wood. Over the hill was a local sawmill, ten miles away was another, three towns over a major hardwood supplier where the cherry and mahogany were superb. Those suppliers were the ones closest. If I needed to go just ten to twenty miles further, there was another cluster. For the most part, these were rather spartan affairs – no fancy showrooms – just lots of wood. West of me had been towns and small cities that, in their day, had been significant furniture producers. The woods in our part of the state were natural tree nurseries.
That was some twenty-five years ago. Suburban sprawl and the opening of big-box stores had already ruined the business in other areas of my state. In my more backward area, they held on just a bit longer.
There is something about sorting through a pile of prime pine boards, looking for the perfect one for that carving, or watching planks peel off a log in a sawmill. The smell of lumber in a big box store is nothing like that of a mill or an old-time lumberyard where the wood gets stickered to prevent warpage, and the talk is all about board footage, four and eight quarter stock, or wide pine boards for restoration projects.


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