Dave Sawyer is my chairmaking grandfather. I learned from Curtis Buchanan, and Curtis learned from Dave. When I first visited Dave, I was 24 years old and had been building chairs for seven years. That January, I left my home in North Carolina in a flivver of a diesel pickup truck, stopping at Contra dances and woodworker’s homes along the way. The weather got colder and colder the farther north I traveled. It was a sub-zero Sunday evening, just 30 minutes from Dave’s Vermont home, and suddenly my diesel started overheating. I couldn’t believe it — Overheating! I had never been so cold in my life and my truck was overheating.
I called Dave from a borrowed cell phone and though he soon showed up, my truck had already cooled. So I followed Dave to his home at what seemed a breakneck speed of 45 mph over increasingly snow-covered roads.
And what a house! As Dave opened the side door of the large 19th-century farmhouse, the smell of maple syrup wafted over me. The big wood-fired cookstove was roaring and boiling pots of maple sap spewed sweet steam around the house. Dave’s wife and daughter were eating haggis, a Scottish pudding of oatmeal and sheep’s guts, while reading Robert Burn’s poetry in honor of his birthday. It felt like heaven after my long trip.
Later that night as I lay in bed, sinister tunes wafted up from the TV room below through the antique vent on the floor. The family was watching a serial thriller, and I drifted off to sleep dreaming of big hairy hands slowly reaching out to … YIKES!
… I awoke from my daydream to find myself in my shop, my paint brush safely swishing over the spindles of the rocking chair. I should have gotten more sleep last night.