Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This Might Be Heaven

Central and southern Georgia were gasping in a multiyear drought. It ended this year, and the rains came and came and came. The rains filled the rivers and lakes to overflowing. Mostly the rains and the sun between the rains combined to become green. The grasses grew and grew and went to seed too wet to be cut for hay. Hay was so plentiful it couldn't be given away, much less sold. The fields turned green, the forest turn green and all of Central Georgia seem to be grass. Chlorophyll reigned supreme, and the secondary roads where the mowers have not been are green-wall slots through which vehicles labor like the children of Israel, marching between the walls of the parted sea, the air so thick with humidity that moving outside feels as much like swimming in the thick air as anything else. The pick up trucks skitter along narrow lanes surrounded everywhere by green.

Recruited by a call almost secret, toward the fabled place they lurched across the land, in trucks, vans, trailers and expectation. One drove 2,700 miles from Washington State and others arrived from Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York and places not disclosed.

Their destination a place most southern, called after a man with two surnames, Wyatt Child and run by such a Child called Bo. The last road, fully trimmed in grass became prettier with every passing mile, pastures and four board fences, white and black. The destination, expensive in time and treasure, unmarked by any signs, apparently because if you did not know where it is, you do not need to be there. An unassuming house is visible from the road, remarkable only in the purity of the white it is painted. A few outbuildings are barely visible, but the only thing betraying the uncommon nature of this place is an imposing pile of sawdust that can be seen from the road. For those bold enough to enter, a long dirt driveway, of white sand, weaves behind the house and pasture to reveal a first brick building, a second, and yet another house with a classic low country porch entirely swaddling it round. Yard between buildings is covered by a fantastic assortment of objects, most apparently European in origin, millstones and gargoyles, anvils and columns, the future accoutrements of substantial places.

Finding a place to park among these remarkable objects, the pilgrims walk to the large brick building, there to encounter startling things. Slabs of French oak 5 and 6 inches thick, two feet wide and ranging up to 16 feet in length are prominently, imposingly displayed. Remarkable machines, the most amazing a green monster the size of a small bus with the mid 20th century appellation, bold on the side: Stratoplaner. Slabs brought to its gigantic infeed roller by forklift are literally manhandled by members of the crew struggling to lift and feed the monster. It sucks slabs into a rapacious slot and issues them forth, smooth and gleaming. Other wonders for sawing, jointing, sanding and planing surround the visitors, many of them fantastic, three dimensional enlargements of the tiny machines of their experience.

The visitors spill their vehicles into the building, scattering through an enormous room a remarkable array of containers. Many of the containers were carefully made by the visitors, others look like stenciled crates from a Hollywood set, and a few like the sad plastic detritus of a midnight Walmart foray. Over time, lids are raised, fronts removed and treasures displayed provide a remarkable counterpoint at the other end of the long building from the Stratoplaner. The best of Lee Nielsen, Veritas, antique Stanley, and exquisite products of today's best plane makers gleam in the high bay florescent light.

The dance begins, the collision of two different woodworking worlds at war. Now the giant slabs are passed by teams of straining visitors into and through the huge machines. The slabs then return to sawhorses bowing under their remarkable weight beside the chests of gleaming hand tools, some looking almost too precious to use, Dwarfed by machines and timber, individuals pick at the slabs with sweeping arms akimbo, feather light shavings spiraling to the concrete floor.

- John Pratt, Menuisier


  1. Bravo, John!
    You captured the magic of moment as perfectly as words can!

  2. Beautifully written John. From the grounds to the tools, you captured the scene very nicely.

  3. words...shmerds...WE WANT PICTURES!!!!! ;-)


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