Features

Sticks, sticks, sticks, all over the house

... one develops a limp to fit the stick

from Don Norris



As I have discovered, my life goes in ten-year segments. I
am in the ninth now, having recently celebrated my 84th
year traipsing through forests in all but two of our
American states.

When we retired (Lorry as a nurse, me as a journalist) at age
57, we decided we'd go see the rest of our United States.
We were gone just short of a year, in a motorhome,  having
touched down in 48 states -- not all on this voyage, but at
sometime during the latest lifetime. We have missed only
North Dakota and Alaska, so give us a badge of courage!

But here's the point: Everywhere we went, if there was a
forest -- even a woods -- nearby, I took the time to look
for a potential stick or branch that could be whittled down to a
workable walking stick. After some 84 years, I have more
canes, walking sticks and hiking staffs than you can shake
a sapling at.

At one time I had to develop an infirmity to fit some
handsome, raw, sapling that I found in a Montana forest.
During our year-long motorhome trip around the country,
we arrived home with more raw sticks than you can shake a
broken leg at.

It's a nice hobby, carving sticks in your living room. Each
one takes an average of a week to carve into some useful -
- that is, after a half-year of drying the fresh-cut stick. If I
were on salary, the working time would cost around one
grand, maybe two, for each stick. But not of one of them is
for sale.

They are not all walking sticks or canes. I have a small
collection of delightful back-scratchers. Sticks, from their
natural growth, come as either canes, a walking stick or a
hiking staff, depending mostly on length. But all have that
spiral-cut hand-grip that is my signature.

And everything is hand-carved. No machinery at all.
Sanding and leatherwork is all hand-done.

I have so many sticks that I began developing a limp to fit
the stick. Some have weird curves and changes of direction
to them. Or huge knots that can double as protection.

Whenever we go to Boston, people on the T can't help but
admire my sticks, then look up at me to see who in hell
uses such a crooked cane. It's me. Ex Boy Scout, one-time
Marine, all-the-time woodsman. And journalist. I have to
be a journalist because the sticks, as beautiful and unusual
as they are, are not money-makers. My son-in-law has one
of my sticks. My nephew in San Francisco has one, and I left
several down in Pensacola, where every fourth person is a
cousin of mine.

It's been a good life, but now I have some small difficulty
handling a whittling knife. Hey, that's life.


June 5, 2015





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