The smell of freshly cut wood always brings back memories of my Grandpa's shop. I spent hours with him there the summer I stayed at the Big Farm. It was a fascinating place for a child and I loved watching my Grandpa's clever hands at work.
The walls were hung with tools; saws, augers, chisels, adzes, hatchets, and axes. There was always a big calander with a colored picture of a curly-haired little girl advertising Hunt's Sarsaparilla. I thought Grandpa chose that because my hair was curly so it reminded him of me even tho her hair wasn't red like mine. I completely ignored the fact that he had other granddaughters beside myself.
Along one wall stood the work bench, windows gleaming above and wood awaiting use below. At one end of the bench was a vise for holding wood securely while it was being worked on. There were several whet-stones and a grind-stone for sharpening tools and a lathe for "turning" the wood, both operated by foot-peddle.
Chairs were Grandpa's specialty tho he made other pieces, too, shelves for pantrys and milk-rooms, stands for plants, and even tables. Bundles of splints for chair-seats hung on the walls as did chairs awaiting seats. Many folks in the area took their meals while seated on one of Grandpa's straight-chairs or relaxed greatfully on the porch of an evening in one of his rocking-chairs.
Sitting quietly on a corner of the workbench or a-top the log chopping block, I would hang shavings from my ears while listening to Grandpa's triple-tongued whistling as he pedaled the lathe and deftly cut a pattern into a chair post. Sometimes we'd sing hymns together while he varnished or painted a finished project or I'd beg; "Tell me about when you were a little boy." and be enthralled by his stories.
I loved the days when Grandpa called me to walk in the woods with him to hunt ginseng which he dug and sold to the local druggist. Or he'd be hunting for the right size sumac tree, a wood he liked using for chairs. Other times we'd hitch up the team and go to the lumber mill to get soft pine for cupboards or cherry and chestnut for ladies chairs and rockers. The lunber yard was an interesting place with its piles of fragrent lumber and the constant bustle of teams and men. I clung closely to Grandpa's hand or coat-tail while we were there.
Grandpa was a careful craftsman and much in demand not only for furnature but also for finish work in home construction. Each of his daughters had a cradle and high chair lovelingly made for her first-born and used for each successive newcomer. Each grandchild received his or her own small arm-chair by the time he or she was walking. They were sturdy pieces which survived several generations.
One memorable day when I was watching Grandpa at work in his shop, he suddenly fell to the floor and didn't answer me when I leaned over him, calling out in terror; "Grandpa, Grandpa, wake up... what's wrong?" Tears streaming down my cheeks, I ran to the house for Grandma. She'd know what to do, I thought, Grandma always knew what to do when one was sick and Grandpa certainly appeared to be very sick to me.
Grandma took a moment to reassure me before speeding out to the shop. Grandpa had received a severe head injury while in the Union Army and as a result, suffered "fits" thereafter. Epileptic seisures, I now know they were, but a terrifying occurence for a small child to see. They didn't happen often and seemed to have no particular cause for occurence. Uncle Bert found Grandpa lying unconscious under his horse's feet once. Dear old Beauty never moved till her master was lifted out of danger of her hooves.
I can still see that shop with it's rough wood walls, cobwebs festooning the rafters and a bird's nest or two tucked away under the roof. The wide door open to sunshine and fresh air with a view of daisy and buttercup bedecked fields, a path leading to the house and branching off to the cow-byre. Under foot was the spongy accumulation of sawdust and shavings soft and with it's own pungent aroma. A place for practical hard work and artistry where a very special man expressed his God-given talent to satisfy his creative urge and help support his family. It was a magical place for me and my many cousins as well, I'm sure.