"...From where I live now, on the old family lands in Weddington, I can look across the street to see a small strip mall, much like you'd find anywhere in rural America, a little nicer than most. It was there, about where the front door of the Winn Dixie is now, that my great-grandparents' house once stood. My Pappaw Hight was a carpenter in his youth; he and his father built the house when Pappaw married Mammaw, sometime in the 1920's.
"My Pappaw Hight was an old man when I came around, and his woodworking days were long past him, but his old shop was still standing. I would sneak in when Mammaw wasn't watching, clearing the cobwebs from the dust covered workbench, handling the old handtools abandoned there by an absent hand. In another old shed, nearly overtaken by muscadine and honeysuckle vines and guarded by a pack of feral housecats that would scratch the mess out of you if you were unlucky enough to catch one, there were stacks of lumber, a gold mine in my young eyes. (The fortress I could build with that wood!)
"Both sheds, indeed the whole back yard, were shaded by four large Black Walnut trees that my grandfather, Pappaw Bobby, planted when he was a young man of twelve or thirteen. My Mammaw called the ugly green balls that fell from the trees "Jupiter Nuts." It wasn't until years later that I found out why.
"The circle turned, years passed, and my Mammaw and Pappaw Hight's bones had long since gone to dust. My Pappaw Bobby retired, and as an antidote to idleness he built a woodshop behind his house, this house here where my family and I live now. He had been a carpenter in his youth, like his father, and had always enjoyed it. He built mostly birdhouses for the local hardware store, although each of his four children received a chest built by his hand. His parents' house and land across the street were sold years past. The land was being cleared for the strip mall, and those Walnut boles were laid to rest at the edge of the site. There they lay until one day my Pappaw asked the foreman about them ("They're going to the dump"), and we were given permission to haul them across the street. A local man, Plato Winchester, brought a portable sawmill and milled the trees for us, and we stacked the lumber in a shed attached to the woodshop.
"I didn't see that lumber again until a few years later, after my Pappaw and Gran, his wife, passed away within six months of each other. My family of five moved in to the old house (which my two Pappaw's had built together when Pappaw Bobby married Gran), and one day, digging around behind the shop, I found that old walnut lumber. I hadn't much experience in a shop, but that first Christmas I made each of Pappaw Bobby's children, my mother and aunts and uncle, a keepsake from that wood.
"That was the start of Mountaineer Millworks."
~Michael Helms, Fall 2001~