Gut Rumbles

May 14, 2008


Originally PUBLISHED June 25, 2005

Whittlin' is another art that is vanishing fast in this country. When I was a boy, I always liked to hang around the "gossip bench," where the old men sat, chewed tobacco, told tall tales and whittled with their razor-sharp pocket knives all day.

Those old men could create wonders. I watched them pick up a piece of fresh-cut pine, test it for heft and feel, and then sit down to start whittling. When they were finished, they'd have a big pile of wood-shavings between their boots and the most wonderous carving you ever saw.

They could make dancing puppets, a perfectly ROUND ball inside a cube of wood that would rattle around when you shook it but wouldn't come out of the cube no matter what you tried, and miniature wooden Indians, just like the one that stood outside the tobacco shop in downtown Harlan, Kentucky.

I don't see many talented whittlers anymore. I kinda miss that, because I'm old enough now to warrant a spot on the "gossip bench" with the rest of the old men. I can chew tobacco and I can tell tall tales, but I never learned to whittle very well. My grandfather could do it. I can't.

But I wouldn't mind learning. Hell, kids like watching old men work wood that way, and if he's a polite kid while he watches (and don't think those little pitchers don't have BIG ears) and listens to the stories, he just MIGHT walk off with a hand-made toy and a lot of good stories to tell himself.

I did, many a time. I think that experience shows in my blog.

Alas, whittling is another part of my childhood that's going the way of the buggy-whip and the outhouse. That crap is obsolete today.

I DO NOT believe that we are better off as a society when whitting becomes a lost art.

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