Raising canes as a hobby

 ... it's a case of art supporting one's walk through life. 

by Stringer Don Norris

Here's a great anytime hobby. Especially if you're an outdoors type.

It's called Carving Canes, and it comes about after a lifetime of athletics, racing, hiking, competing and doing all those hard-on-the-body things that bring on sore joints, arthritis and misery throughout one's later years. You can count on that!

I've been there. Actually I am there. I hurt here, and here, and here, all the time. Sometimes a lot more than others. But then, that's after seven decades of having a really great life.

The canes became a necessity. At first, back in the sixties, I slid into second base in the local men's softball league, and pulled all sorts of ligaments and connections out of place. The problem was that we (my wife and three young children) were leaving the next morning on a six-weeks summer vacation to New Mexico, where we were to do some exploring of ancient ruins.

I cut my first cane during one of our stopovers, en route.

The next injury was the first of many incurred while racing motorcycles in endurance competition. I crashed a lot during those early years, and broke things like ribs, and fingers, a clavicle once. But the need for canes grew, and I had to buy a set of crutches to use until I could painfully get back on my dirtbike.

I had a buddy, a Harvard graduate with a Ph.D., who just couldn't give up racing. He broke a vertebra going over the handlebars once, and actually started riding again while wearing a body cast. In his sixties now, he still rides a BMW dirt bike, rigged with a global positioning device on the handlebars to tell him where he is. He's not crazy, just dedicated.

And then there was the volleyball, which we rode to the nationals twice. We didn't know it at the time, but three practices a week and a tournament every Saturday set the stage for a very painful old age. By age 50, the joint linings were gone. By this time I had carved some dozen canes, and was getting rather good at it. Carving, that is.

I took to painting 20 years ago, inspired by the Impressionists, and spent lots of time in the woods. When the light went bad, I'd pack up the paints and start looking, in earnest, for branches that had just the proper right-angle for a cane. I was now hooked on carving, and had accumulated over a hundred knives, chisels, and files.

And so, as you can see in the picture above, I always have several canes in the works. Now, I can do it sitting down, because my poor bones hurt too much to do much standing. But it has been a marvelous life. I wouldn't change a thing. Hand me that knife, will you?

February 7, 2003

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