American Humor: The Secrets of Whittling Wood

The Last Laugh column shares MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader submitted American humor. Joe Novara shares his take on his hobby of whittling wood.

| April/May 2000

The last laugh column shares MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader submitted American humor with other MOTHER readers. Today we venture into the art of whittling wood.

Whittling a tune beats the sound of a table saw any day.

You've heard of Whistler's Mother? Well, if I had painted a picture of my mother, they would have called it Whittler's Mother, because I like to whittle.

Some folks whittle just to have something to do with their hands — a man's version of knitting is known as whittling wood. Except, instead of a sweater, they end up with a pile of kindling. Which isn't all bad when there's a stove or fireplace around. But since I installed a gas furnace I've had the warmest barn in the county, what with all the gunny sacks full of wood shavings lining the walls.

But I'm not just making wood chips when I whittle. I'm looking for something. I'm a firm believer that every stick has something inside it that wants to come out — even if it's only a thinner, slimmer version of itself. When I whittle a chunk of wood, it's like laying back in a fresh green field on a summer day and studying clouds to see what stories they have to tell. I slowly unwrap the bark cover, like a bride-to-be at a bridal shower, holding her breath, waiting to say oooh! Then I study the stick until I see something in the grain and the nubs and the knots — a bird or a troll or just a smooth and graceful shape.

One day my grandson Chunk stopped by. I like that name. His girlfriend gave it to him. She used to call him flunk until he put on a few extra pounds. I think he looks good with the extra insulation. I guess I've always seen a chubby man trying to get out of the skinny boy he used to be.

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