The wood-turner’s ladder

Not that many years ago, when I worked at a history museum, we tried to bring as many craftsmen with old-time skills to the program as we could. One of these was a wood turner who worked with a hand lathe. I loved the spin of the thing and the smell of the cut wood and the curl of the wood shavings. I loved that the work was done on the round, so-to-speak. Tops, knobs, plates and bowls – what he created was always round. The grain of the wood flowed through it like rivers and clouds, graceful curves, elegant turns.

The other day, Chris Smith, who writes a column in our local newspaper, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, reported on George Greeott, just such a wood-turner, and “one of the most gleefully creative people ever born.” George, it seemed, had a yen to make his grand kids something special, and so he went into his workshop and turned wood for seven hours. He made 15 spindles with doughnut-like rings. When Chris wondered what George thought his grandchildren would do with them, the wood-turner responded that years from now “they might examine and fiddle with the wooden creations and say, ‘Gee whiz, my grandpa did that when he was 100 years old!”

Not exactly true, as it turned out. “George, a retired rancher, championship horseshoes tosser and inventor who makes delightful art from wood and odds and ends, such as railroad spikes,” didn’t turn 100 until today.

Such a man, it seemed to me as I read the column, must have something wonderful to say about old age, and sure enough he did. “It occurred to him years back that aging is like climbing a ladder, wrote Chris Smith. “‘All your life you try to achieve more, reach higher.’” He’d hoped he would make it to the 100th rung, and here he is.”

New Mexico ladder

Now, Chris suggests, he’ll simply add an extension to his ladder.

I don’t have any point to make about the story or even the ladder, but both of them made me feel good and I hope they’ll do the same for you.

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