Category Archives: Uncategorized

Barn the Spoon

We took a little break from cleaning up several hundred thousand woodchips and shavings the morning after Greenwood Fest 2017. 

It was then that Follansbee asked me to take out my phone and shoot a quick video with he and Barn-The Spoon-Carder, one of the festival’s presenters. Barn, you see, had just written a new book–SPON: A Guide to Spoon Carving and the New Wood Culture–and there was some confusion as to the proper pronunciation of the title. If you are remotely interested in spoon carving and green woodworking, this book is a must-own.

These two need to take this show on the road-

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The world is filled with people who are no longer needed. And who try to make slaves of all of us.

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And they have their music and we have ours.

-Woody Guthrie

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The Taming of the Screw

Couplets have been rhymed and codpieces have been salted away.

The Worcester Shakespeare Company bids farewell to another great summer of outdoor theater at The New Napkin Stage in Whitinsville, Mass.

For the last several years we’ve raised up an ongoing reproduction of a Shakespearean stage (based on London’s Globe Theatre) and taken it down when the play has concluded its run.

This makes us not a little melancholic-

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But the show mustn’t go on…

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Then the hammer says to the mallet, you catch my drift?

So

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Many

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Screws

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Mel and Chris are always there to help-

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Mr. Starbuck wilt thou not chase the pumpkin spice latte?

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Chiaroscuro or gtfo

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Some of the players themselves came to lend a hand in the deconstruction-

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Bucket o’ Pins, a seasonal delicacy-

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Brace yourself-

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So much drama and yet the post is still good as newel-

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One of our crew (whose name begins with CHRIS) was once a roadie for a certain band…

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If you think that is real marble then you are in the throes of a phallicy-

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Phallicy, because, you know, phallic.

Arise, I bid thee!

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Soon to be roaming numerals-

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Inventory-

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When Broseph needs a smoke now, and then-

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So they loaded up the truck and moved to Chiltonville…

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exeunt…

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Picked up Pieces

The grain always changes direction around a knot, and other deep thoughts…

Inspiration greets this man everyday in his workshop:

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Bansky was here.

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Anyone who’s ever peeled a potato is a carver. But some just take it to another level:

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If you can say, that was my father’s saw, generally you can consider yourself lucky.

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The Christmas Tree Shop, at the gateway to Cape Cod, boasts the largest thatched roof in the USA. I think about that when I’m inside buying cheap sponges and cookies in metal tins from Denmark-

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This English oak was already 100 years old when the Normans came to dinner:

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Job-site planing is basically hatcheting. Get that shit done, son.

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Hey Follansbee, we found this perfect half-ball at the job-site in Norwell:

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You bring the broomstick I’ll bring the Fanta Grape-

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See that house? The new one with the plastic shingles, vinyl windows, and a witches brew of whatnot imposing itself on that little pond?

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Roughly 225 carving knifes, 148 bowls in various shapes, a few stock knives and a football stadium full of hand-wrought spoons, all drove past it on the way to Greenwood Fest 2016.

It’s all about the juxtaposition.

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I’ve made a promise to myself that I won’t say WICKED PISSAH again until they re-animate Teddy Ballgame’s frozen head-

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Ted Williams aka The Splendid Splinter

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Just came back from our tax dude…he made a snide comment about students majoring in Underwater Basket Weaving and I was like, what’s so wrong with that?

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Scott Landis of The Workbench Book fame, is a driving force behind GreenWood, a visionary enterprise making the world a better place by saving forests, aiding local economies, and producing beautiful work: http://www.greenwoodglobal.org/

Take a minute to check them out–

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GreenWood chairs made by locals in Central America.

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When the applewood ladle I clumsily made in the late 80’s finally fails, I want it to go in the line of duty, stirring a big pot of Nana’s favorite spaghetti sauce.

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Before Prozac, men with large mustaches and hand tools would chamfer all the sharp corners in the world.

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Have you seen this? JoJo is on the cutting edge of making traditional craft relevant again:

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This guy Justin writes a really nice blog

Here’s his fresh take on Follansbee’s 17th-century furnishings in their natural habitat:

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The Great Pyramid of Giza is out of square and we’re all looking at you, ancient aliens.

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Capable is the new sexy.

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We had an amazing visit with Plymouth wonders David B. and Elizabeth C. last month and there’ll be more about that later.

Meanwhile the sophomore in me couldn’t resist taking a picture from one of David’s many esoteric books:

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The wet/dry shop vac is the most ambiguous of the tools.

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Melancholic carpenters are drawn towards the coping saw.

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Sincere question from a novice carver: How do you know when your carving is done?

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Gonna go out on a limb here and say that Jögge Sundqvist’s work is among the most colorful, naturally-inspired craft going on in the world right now–

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He is a born teacher as well as a ROCK GOD

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That’s not music–it’s a rhythmic working pattern.

-MLB

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Why wait?

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Well that about covers it.
-tarp salesman

 

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instant coffee and 8 pennys

This is a story about grandpas–those tinkering, puttering, handy fellows who did unheralded and often excellent work down in their basement shop while managing to keep things impossibly organized.

It’s a story from a bygone era full of snappy jingles, instant coffee and brands and vendors which permeated a time when people smoked inside. stowed their ashes in avocado green ashtrays and framed picture windows with orange curtains.

I helped a friend clean out his late grandfather’s shop recently.

There was a dumpster in the driveway. It stood beckoning, its open end like a mouth waiting for us to just chuck everything inside and walk away.

But we all agreed it would be wrong to junk so many things which were not only still useful, but were a physical memory of a life spent creating and organizing with such a careful attention to detail.

The milk crates we carried up from his workshop were brimming with cans and jars, themselves full of hardware and organized down to the last finish nail. This was an autobiography written from storm window fasteners and curtain rod hardware.

Metal cans with marked lids are a must in every organized basement shop:

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The decorative finish is a bonus and would brighten any workspace-

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Clearly coffee was an important component of grandfather’s life, as it should be:

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Though he seemed willing to try different brands…

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And he experimented with diverse methods of brewing as well-

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Perhaps the good folks at Mansion Inn were on to something with their new and fancy keyless can

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Same-

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This coffee staple contained not staples but galvies-

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There were jars–relics, really–which evoked fond memories of stores long-since closed.

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Still, even at 39 cents, I’m not buying-

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The brands grew less familiar as we dug towards the bottom of the milk crates-

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I once got margarine on my dungarees while riding my stingray.

And this is what happens to your margarine when it freezes, kids:

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Peanut butter was very well-represented in grandpa’s basement shop-

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Choosy mothers may have chosen Jif, but not our man:

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That label on the Skippy jar says Angelo’s and some of us still call the little supermarket in Manomet, MA by that name, though it’s gone now 30 years.

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Churned for easier spreading also makes for a great conversation starter about the ‘birds and bees’-

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You had us at churnt. The contents within are inconsequential.

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Some labels kept it simple and needed no further elaboration-

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I can only imagine the glory of those long-forgotten condiment wars, between the Mastermixt, the chilling and the beating til fluffy:

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Has anyone written French’s for recipes lately? Can we download a PDF?

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This particular jar reminds us that it is delicious as we throw up in our mouth a little-

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As the jars became smaller, so their contents turned more esoteric:

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SHOE COLORING, by Lady Esquire.

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All that glitters retains its full flavor when the cap is replaced-

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Obligatory baby food jars-

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Looks like stewed peaches for Brad-

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The magic happened…

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on shelf #3-

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Paper goods, in such excellent condition, reveal a knack for careful curating as well as a dry basement-

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And this–a faux-grained paper to class-up your pedestrian containers:

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When was the last time you made a “small” wastebasket from a potato chip can?

And you just don’t hear the word trinket enough anymore-

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Doesn’t it always seem to be the smallest things which remind you most of someone you miss?

I never knew this man but it feels like I did.

We raise our hot-dog-relish-jar to a life spent in quiet craft and exemplary organization in a basement workshop from another era-

One which we can still learn from.

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Wilford Brimfield

Brimfield Flea Market, 2016

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Elvis will leave the building for $75-

Haunted Raggedy Ann dolls and enormous phallus carvings notwithstanding, the most enduring image from that day at the biggest outdoor flea market this side of Worcester was that of the tall and ripped gentleman reverently holding up a 4′ bucking saw. I thought, this jacked dude was born to use that saw–he probably comes from a line of French/Canadian lumberjacks who crosscut the Northwest Passage!  It was only when he turned the saw over and I saw it richly detailed with painted flora and fluffy sheep and whatnot that I realized what a gross generalization I’d made. This man had no intention of using his prized objet d’art beyond hanging it above his mantle at home. And that’s ok.

Brimfield caters to every taste.

I happened upon a re-purposed tool myself:

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Some playful human had turned this lovely beetle into, well, a beetle. The seller, god bless him, wasn’t aware of the visual pun he was selling but he assured me that it came from the classic RING THE BELL carnival game of testing one’s strength. For my part, I was drawn to the rings and the overall reasonable condition of the head and handle. The head was close-grained and hard, possibly elm but I’m not sure. I told him that I planned on using it as a splitting tool and for knocking framing timbers together though I’m not sure he understood or particularly cared. He parted with it for $8.

Gems and junk did jump together up and down that long strip of tents and vendors.

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Like many of you, I was drawn not so much to the colorful and bold, but the muted rusting things on the fringes and under the tables, scanning more for overall hue than for detail. That’s often where the real finds are.

Several of the proprietors were already beginning to pack up for their next gig.

Under a large tent beneath a table, I found this box before the man from Maine stowed it away. I had no idea what was inside, if anything, but the box alone was worth a better look.

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Mr St. Charles kept very good care of his saws–a mix of crosscut and ripping. While I’m not usually in the market for old handsaws, Maine made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He really didn’t want to lug it all back down east.

Thank you, Edward. I hope to give these saws as good a home as you once did.

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There was a notable lack of chisels at this season’s Brimfield. Overall, there seemed to be fewer tools than I remember.

But for my boon companions, there were treasures around every corner:

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My wife is a miller. Gears, man. Gears are her thing.

And has there been a good pencil sharpener made in lo these last 40 years?

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No one knew what this was-

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No doubt Kevin had the find of the day with his bell-bottomed leather sexy-time pants:

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And I was compelled to spend time with this compelling fellow below.

I call him Andy.

Andy and I spoke for hours on existential despair, proper use of sunscreen, and the best places to find Pokémon:

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shhh, my friend, shhh–just let the zinc oxide do its work…

Amy carried my new beetle as well as a 4-foot crow bar for most of the hot afternoon because she is stronger than me and she apparently misses the fleshly mortifications of the Appalachian Trail.

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It was hot, it was late, we were running out of gas and we were running out of kettle corn.

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Kevin, impulsively, donned his new leather bell bottoms, rode a rainbow across the road and hitched a ride with the groovy kids on the bus.

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He was last seen in Vermont with Andy and Elvis.

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You know you can receive an email notification when I post this drivel, right?

Just pick a single post and scroll ALL the way down to the bottom for the FOLLOW button. 

 

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Hangham Style

Just a little side project, they told him.

Install an 11′ mantel between two posts in a new timber frame.

Shouldn’t take more than a week.

And we’ve even got the stock for you!

A barely audible alarm went off in the back of Justin’s busy head…

Over the next 2 weeks it grew louder and more insistent–like a Canadian who’s just about run out of Molson on a camping trip–until it was drowned out only by the dissonant whine of a plugged-in planer and the need for a smoke.

Oh hey, devil hemlock–dry, twisted and left-for-dead–which no human in the history of the world would ever want to touch or even burn, let alone square and build-out.

It was so awesome that the install happened to fall on the heels of all that cheerful and sublime carving at Greenwood Fest. 

I remember when we used to work happy and well-adjusted wood with idiosyncratic Swedes and dreadlocked Englishwomen.

Wood with WATER STILL IN IT.

Juxtaposition? More like Suckstaposition.

Other than being a day-long avoidance of trashing a fine house which may or may not have been hosting a party with Marky Mark within a fortnight, things ended up fair and square. The client was pleased, there were no holes in the plaster, and all the joints fit like Tupperware lids.

You had this all along, ked.

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painting by Jones River artist Marshall Joyce

Don’t you DARE put your drink on the mantel without a coaster.

We’re looking at you, Wahlberg.

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Speaking of green wood…

If you can scrape together the ducats, the upcoming Plymouth CRAFT workshop with Dave Fisher is a great way to say goodbye to July this summer.

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Dave is as amazing a craftsman as he is a nice guy.  Check out his blog for inspiration: https://davidffisherblog.wordpress.com/

We were lucky to have Dave at Greenwood Fest 2016 and to see him teach and create extraordinary bowls.  Breathtaking work, really.

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Course fee includes materials as well as incredible fare by Paula Marcoux. It’ll take place along a beautiful estuary south of Boston. Well worth it.

For info: http://www.plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=bowl-carving-with-dave-fisher

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fish and wood chips

April is all about the running here–

Running noses, running 26.2 miles, and amorous fish running upriver.

Hark the humble herring heroically heralding spring-

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Plimoth Grist Mill’s second annual Herring Run Festival kicks off this Friday evening, April 24th. Witness the drama of about 100,000 water-ascending Lotharios looking to get lucky in the private nooks of Billington Sea. There’ll be food, music, and you can even help to collect important scientific data on this mass migration.

Then, even as the exhausted fish lie contented blowing smoke rings from some dimly-lit riverbed, May follows with more Plymouth CRAFT offerings:

From building an earthen oven to drop-spinning to a class on the art of splitting logs into workable project material with Peter Follansbee and me–

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This little non-profit is busting out quality workshops like so many herring pushing upstream.

See you there?

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Cranberry sauce comes from a can-

And is served as 3/4 inch segments.

Happy Thanksgiving

Score one for Bandit

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Everyone should have a Mister Johnson in their neighborhood

You know Mister Johnson.

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He’s the “retired” guy who lives down the street with his wife.  He wears navy blue work shirts and pants. That shirt is always tucked in. His hands are working hands, and his hair is whiter than snow. His glasses habitually slide down his nose, and his voice is gravelly with a strong south of Boston cadence which refuses to be homogenized by tv, the internet, and convention.

His children are long-fledged, but his small yellow ranch on a little lot in Manomet is brightly decorated with each holiday–Halloween, Easter, and especially Christmas. People slow down on busy route 3-A to view the angels, the penguins and the candy canes. His yard is more crowded with Christmas elves each year, it seems. Some might say it’s gauche or even an eyesore. But his enthusiasm and his joy are undeniable. To him, such seasonal decor is a gift to others, to the community.

When our boys were little and we’d walk down to the bus stop next to his house, he would often come out and ask the kids about their homework or hockey.  I don’t think we ever learned his first name. To me and mine, he’s always been Mister Johnson.

He tinkers. He’s always doing something. A couple years ago, a younger family member came and spent the weekend helping him fell some oaks and pitch pines in the corner of his property. There he raised a little metal workshop and turned up the soil for some tomatoes and pumpkins. Some nights, as I drive past his house on my way home from work, I hear pounding metal. Other nights, later in the season when work brings us home in the dusk, the workshop is silent but the glow of florescent light spills out of the windows. He made a 4-foot tall lighthouse for his friends–a retired policeman and his wife– across the street. Just a little yard ornament for a fellow retiree.

He drives an old beat up Chevy whose rich exhaust reminds me of the 70’s.  I see him driving everywhere around town. In a world full of sleek GMCs and Toyotas and Dodges, his scratched and well-worn ride stands out a quarter a mile down the road. There goes Mister Johnson, I say to whomever might be in my own truck at the time.  There is almost ALWAYS something in the bed of his truck, unless he’s just returned from a scrap metal delivery.

Mister Johnson is the go-to guy when it comes to scrap metal. He drives 45 minutes to Hanson with a load–and he tells me he’s had as much as a ton of it on his truck.

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Mr Johnson shows us Polaroids of an epic scrap metal pick-up. Note the refrigerator on top of the tool box.

My wife and I had fallen into a full-court cleaning mode. Years of detritus had accumulated in the back of our yard–the old box springs, mattresses, metal gutters–they had all found their way behind and next to a shed. It was an archaeology of sorts, digging through the stacked piles of children’s bikes,  discarded tvs, and garden hoses we once had the noble intention of making into soaker hoses but never got around to. Life.

We hid our stuff–our junk and our memories–in the furthest corner of our own property; forgotten, as life continued around us fast and furious.

But today was different. Perhaps it was because this was the first Sunday after our own eldest son had fledged. Maybe we felt the first tangible stings of an empty nest. For whatever reason, we had time and inclination to address that place where hornets nest, where mice hunker down, and where the grass grows tall. Forgive us, dear south-facing neighbors, for having left you with such an uninspiring view of our discarded Salvation Army upholstered chair lo these several years.

Our digging led to sorting which led to a pile of metal. As we drove  down our little road with a heap of old couches and rolled rugs tied down in the back of our pickup to be delivered unceremoniously unto the difficult to manage waste facility, we happened upon Mister Johnson and his wife pulling into their little ranch. My wife and I thought the same thing: Let’s ask Mister Johnson if he wants the metal for scrap.

“Hi Mister Johnson. Do you still collect metal and would you like some?

“Yes I do”, he said.

“Do you take aluminum too?” I asked, thinking of the pieces of old gutters on the margin of our wood.

“If it’s metal I take it,” he replied.

“He’ll clean you up!” said Mrs. Johnson, cheerfully, from the cab of that Chevy.

He backed into our narrow driveway and across the lawn where our kids used to play wiffle ball and expertly parked between two semi-dwarf apple trees. Our dog, Bogey, gave him the hey, i’m not sure who you are bark. Mister Johnson is the guy who carries dog biscuits in his truck to give to dogs who just aren’t sure why there’s a gentleman noisily throwing scrap metal into the unlined metal bed of his truck. Bogey made a friend today.

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You know Mister Johnson. He’s the guy who takes away your scrap metal and the physical memories you are finally willing to let go of.  He’s the guy who brings you a plastic bag of tomatoes when he comes to pick it all up.

The weeds have got the better of me this year, he told us, speaking about his tomatoes. He said the manure from a local pig farm had too many weeds in it and he won’t use that again.

He’s seemingly happy in retirement, doing all the small things that turn little or no profit but which benefit a neighborhood richly. There’s a timeless sense to it all. In his work clothes and beater truck he reminds me of my own grandfather. Change the color of the photos to sepia or black and white and they could be from the 1960’s or earlier.

There are a lot of Mister Johnsons in the world, humbly picking away at the odds and ends of our lives. They enrich our community, and are part of the ties that bind a neighborhood.

I hope your neighborhood has a Mister Johnson.

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Oh right…Harry. That’s Mister Johnson’s first name. And his wife’s name is Myrt.

Harry and Myrt.

We’ll see you next time, Mister Johnson.

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