After my surgery last year, I found I needed a cane for stability as I walked. Year’s ago in Belize, we visited an archeology site and walked among the ancient temples. Surrounding the parking lot were a great number of small 8’ x 8’ shacks where handcrafted items were for sale. I made the rounds stopping at several of them looking for a cane that I liked and that was tall enough for me. I found one. It had a carved toucan with the beak and head being the handle. It also was carved from a piece of Ziricote, one of my favorite exotic woods. For a year after the surgery, I enjoyed using that cane. Then one day, I tried to use it as a pry bar. That didn't work out so well. It broke in half and I was left to find another. Not a big deal I thought, get on the internet and there should be plenty to choose from. Turns out that isn't exactly true. I did finally find a cane made long enough and strong enough for me. I had a small brass plaque put on the cane that said, “I’ll go where you want me to go dear Lord…”
Each time someone would ask us where we wanted to go on our mission, I would point to that small plaque. That small piece of brass has often come to mind when I’ve been asked to help in one capacity or another. It’s hard to read that reminder and then turn down an opportunity to serve. It has helped keep me pointed in the right direction and has often brought the spirit to teach.
Those who know me, know I love wood. I can't stand to see it covered up with paint, especially highly figured woods. You know the ones, those pieces that are knotty and twisted, and despised by wood cutters. They can’t be split and make life difficult when firewood or nice straight boards are wanted. On the other hand, these remnants of a tough life, of stresses and conquest give us such amazing beauty. I at one time had collected over two hundred kinds of wood, most of it beautifully figured. I have enjoyed over the years, using that wood for pens, lamps, bowls, tables, and other useful items.
After the surgery I knew that I wasn't going to be able to do the wood working I once had. The lathe and saws were too big and heavy, and the big boards and sheets were beyond my abilities now. With some reluctance, I sold all my woodworking tools, and most of the wood I had collected over the years. They went to people I know are getting good use out of them and enjoying them as much as I did, but…
With my love and passion for wood, when the new cane arrived, I was disappointed. It was supposed to be Zebrawood, but it wasn't recognizable as such. It was a nice cane, but not what I really wanted. I now had a dilemma. The answer had always been, make it yourself, and make it from a beautiful, one of a kind, piece of wood. I spent hours looking at that cane and trying to figure out how, without all the big wood working tools, I could accomplish it.
A plan began to take shape. I could do it with hand tools, to cut a board, I had friends with table saws and many offers of help, so I began to acquire the few hand tools I needed and discovered I still had some of my more prized pieces of wood, including two large slabs of walnut burl and several boards of curly maple that was logged from the bottom of the great lakes and was from old growth timber from another century. As I progressed in this endeavor, I kept getting to a point and then I am stuck. I spent more time thinking and planning. It soon became apparent, (to me anyway), with what I wanted to do, and knowing I didn't want to be constantly bother friends for a few cuts to move me to the next sticking point. I needed some power tools.
Over the next several weeks, to the dismay and amusement of my wife, I assembled a shop in miniature. None of my power tools weigh over 40 pounds. They were small, and could be moved taking minimal space. As the first crude cane shafts began to emerge, I started to work on handles, and yes, the miniature shop continued to expand. Now I began to acquire different woods. I have friends who need canes, there are also the Pioneer homes filled with folks who use canes, and others. Who knows, I might even sell a few. I’m sure on our mission, I will have opportunities to help someone out with a nice handmade custom cane. I need one for the temple, one that is white, or nearly so. I have more than one favorite wood, so I am sure I will need multiple canes. As I identify each cane I will use, I place a small brass tag on it that says, “I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord…”
As I reflected back at the time I have spent over the past two months, I came to realize two tender mercies. First, the house hasn't sold, but because it hasn't sold, I have had the garage to work in. Second, with a place, to work, and the ability to create, I have stepped back into the shop. I have found I am standing longer, walking more and getting up and down easier. It has been the best physical therapy I could find.