Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wood Friends

One of the best things about making spoons is that gathering the wood is half the fun.  Going on wood gathering adventures if you will.  You will meet many people who are really interested in what you do.  Many people will show up at your house with logs or old boards they found in their Great Grandfather's barn.  Maybe some old Walnut planks that have been drying for 60 years or a log from a favorite tree in their yard.  I have met many great people over the years and made many friends.

One such person is Tommy Turner from Wylie, Texas.  I met Tommy at "Logger Days" in South Fork, Colorado several years ago.  I was selling spoons and he was selling turned pieces and leather work and straw hats.  He asked me if I could make him a spatula out of Mesquite for flipping the sourdough pancakes he likes to cook.  I made him one and then another and then he ordered some for his friends who like to cook.

Tommy is a really interesting character.  He's one of those guys you feel comfortable with right off the bat, like you've known him for years.  He is a true westerner.  He and his friends get together and cook and go to Chuck Wagon cook offs .  He also has a strong back because he brings me huge pieces of Osage Orange wood and Mesquite when he comes out a couple of times a year.  I don't know how he gets them into his truck but he does.  He sells some of the spoons I make from the wood in Texas and Oklahoma at shows along with his beautiful leather work.

Here is a picture Tommy sent me from a Chuck Wagon competition a few years ago.  He's the one on the left.  The fellow on the right holding the large ladle and spoon is his friend Chris.  He's an award winning Chuck Wagon cook.  He not only cooks great food but puts a lot of time and hard work into his camp setup, researching and making his own gear in order to have an authentic camp for the judging.  Attendees buy a bowl and then they go from camp to camp sampling the fare and step back in time to days long gone when everything was hand made from the tables and chairs to the wooden barrels and buckets to the spoons and pots.

The Mesquite that Tommy brings me comes from Chris's ranch and it is a pure joy to work with.  It is freshly cut green wood without all the insect damage of trees that have been down for a few years.  The color is dark reddish brown with bright yellow sapwood.

Tommy asked me to make a large ladle and spoon out of some of the Mesquite as a present for Chris and presented them to him at the cook off where they used them to serve 15 gallons of stew.  That is still the largest ladle I have ever made.  It could hold a bowl full of stew and was 24 inches long.

I never know what he will show up with but it is always great.  Sometimes Persimmon or Apricot.  Always lots of that fine Mesquite.

Here they are cutting some corn bread in a dutch oven with an Osage Orange spatula.  Looking at this picture,  I can imagine coming back to camp after a 12 hour day driving cattle, and being served a meal of brisket and baked beans and corn bread cooked out over an open fire.  I remember as a kid camping in the Blue Ridge mountains.  My dad loved to cook and he would go all out at every meal.  I remember how good the food was after a day spent chasing my sister and climbing trees. Pork and beans and potatoes and biscuits with blueberry cobbler for desert, cooked in the dutch oven in the coals of the fire.  It just doesn't get any better than that.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hanging out

We were hiking along Maroon creek in the White river national forest near Aspen, Colorado  a few weeks ago and we came upon these trout hanging out in a shallow pool.  The 12-14 inch Rainbows were very cooperative and let me get a picture with the 300 mm lens.  The water in this stream is crystal clear with maroon colored rocks in the stream bed, hence the name.  They were just hanging out waiting for a late season Blue Wing Olive Mayfly or midge to drift by for a meal.  I can sit and stare into mountain pools like this for hours.  It's fun to catch a grasshopper in the tall grass and throw it into a pool to see who's hiding under a shady undercut bank.  It usually disappears in a splashing rise in short order.