Yesterday, my father-in-law and I delivered a set of five chairs for Josh and his wife’s new house. We met at a horse park and transferred the blanket-wrapped chairs into Josh’s car. As I wrapped the chairs last week, I remembered this story:
It was a cold, dark Sunday night. I was tired. My ‘84 Isuzu pickup, smelling of homemade biodiesel, was tired too. Dark trees passed slowly by my window as the truck labored up a long, steep hill. A continuous arm chair sat in the front seat next to me, wrapped in a blanket for protection. The cold wind whistled through a crack in the truck’s door gasket. I turned up the heat.
Twenty-three years old, six years a chairmaker, I was traveling to the John C. Campbell Folk School to teach my first continuous arm chairmaking class. I was an old hat, having taught two side chair classes at the Folk School with my co-teacher Bill Anderson the previous year. Bill was busy welcoming the students to the Folk School woodshop as I toiled up the hill; I had double-booked myself at a crafts show in Winston-Salem and Bill had graciously agreed to cover for me.
My truck labored up the hill. Still cold, I turned the heat up even higher. Nothing. I waved my hand in front of the heater vent. The air wasn’t quite lukewarm. Blast fire! The worthless, forsaken piece of inanimate heater core must have died. Drat!
Twenty miles later it started snowing. Frozen to the core, I pulled off the road and unwrapped the blanket from my silent companion. I swear I heard the chair shiver. But I was heartless; I wrapped the blanket around me, with only my hands sticking out to grasp the cold steering wheel. I drove. Through snow flurries and over mountain ridges I drove. I drove like the devil was behind me. A devil with icicles in his beard.
An hour and a half later I walked into the Folk School woodshop. Bill and his wife DeeDee had saved me warm dinner and two huge cookies. Seeing my plight, DeeDee ran to the school kitchen after a bucket of hot tea. I had survived.