Making Canes, Living in a Tipi, and Other Profiles

This installment of an ongoing profiles feature a 90 year old man who spends his retirement making canes and a half-Cherokee woman who has made her home living in a tipi.

| November/December 1979

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    Nonagenarian George Washington Stone is fond of making canes, and fond of giving them away free of charge to those who need one.
  • 060-profiles-verna-mae-sloan.jpg
    Verna Mae Sloan wrote her book What My Heart Wants To Tell to document life in turn-of-the-century Appalachian Kentucky.

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  • 060-profiles-verna-mae-sloan.jpg

In celebration of little-known MOTHER-type folks from all over.  

George Washington Stone: Making Canes

George Washington Stone has spent 80 of his 90 years whittling, sanding, and handing out canes. "I learned the skill from my grandfather," Stone remembers. "The Civil War left him with a leg wound, so Granddad taught himself to make his own walking sticks. He'd go out into the woods, bend a sapling, and leave it to grow in that shape for a year."

George, on the other hand, goes into the forest, gathers his raw materials—often hickory or box elder—bends the green limbs around a post in his back yard, and leaves 'em for a month to six weeks till the hook becomes permanent. Then the nonagenarian works the wood over with his pocketknife and sandpaper and adds the finishing touch with a coat of varnish.

But the craftsman refuses to sell or even trade for his handmade canes. "Makes me feel good to give 'em to those that need 'em," Stone explains. "Walking's about the best thing you can do for your health. I'm just trying to help keep folks on their toes! "—Marti Cyrus Attoun.

June Soper: Living in a Tipi

What's so unusual about an Indian living in a tipi? Well, for one thing, June Soper is only part Cherokee Indian, and for another, Cherokees don't traditionally live in tipis at all! Ms. Soper chose her present abode back in August 1976 because she was unable to obtain suitable work and housing—as a result, she's convinced, of widespread discrimination against Indians. So June put to use the experience she had accumulated while building tipis for local tribal functions and fabricated what was to become her permanent home.

At present, Ms. Soper is writing a book about her tipi-dwelling experience. The first draft begins, "Many times I've been asked why I moved into a tipi. My answer can only be this: I gave up a lot when I changed my abode: raking leaves, mowing lawns, shoveling snow, and dealing with nosy neighbors. And all that I've gained in return for my 'losses' are pure air and water, wild foods and flowers, and excellent physical and mental health! "—Dave Epperson.

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