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Another Day in the Country

The Walking Sticks

© Another Day in the Country

As an adult returning to Ramona for some occasion, one of the first people I made acquaintance with was Jakie. He lived here most of his life, working on the railroad that moved through town, surviving the hazards of small town life, and eventually achieving legendary status — meaning people told stories about him.

Even I added to the story line with first-hand tales of my own, like the time we celebrated my birthday while we were here for our annual 10-day stay, and we invited him to attend.

“I won’t be comin’,” he said as we sat on his porch, drinking a bottle of homemade root beer I’d brought to him.

“But don’t let nobody say I don’t do my part,” he added.

Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out an old, battered, billfold. He extracted a dollar bill that he ceremoniously handed to me.

“You have yourself a happy birthday, sveetheart,” he said.

If you noticed the title of this piece, you might be asking, “And what does this have to do with walking sticks?”

Well, Jakie had a most unusual one. It was an old broom, worn down to the last row of stitching, so it was just a stub of a broom with a good solid handle.

That walking stick was genius. It was good support and had traction in any weather, and it was free!

Always snapping pictures around town, I took one of him dressed in his customary faded blue overalls, mopping his brow with a red handkerchief as he stood on his back porch, leaning on his walking stick. Classic.

There are lots of “oldsters” in my past who took up friendship with a walking stick as they aged. And now, finding myself a “woman of a certain age,” I find the addition of a walking stick, especially in winter, a great idea. After all, these country roads are a trick to drive on, avoiding potholes, let alone walk along.

My friend Phyllis came to lunch the other day with a walking stick she had made for herself. She’s an artist, so you’ll have to imagine just how beautiful her walking stick was, with smooth, black wood and bright colors. There was a modern-art chicken’s head sprouting out the top — that got my attention. There were bright colored orbs imbedded up and down the shaft, encircled with bright stripes and a leather hand-hold.

“I get dizzy sometimes,” she explained, “and this stick is really helpful when I walk about.”

Her stick was so gorgeous that it made me want one, dizzy or not!

Walking sticks have always intrigued me; but I’d never thought of making my own, until then.

“Wouldn’t it be fun to make a walking stick,” I thought.

Almost immediately came another idea.

“Wouldn’t my kids in art class love making a walking stick of their own,” I thought.

And we were off and running with the notion.

I sent a note home with the children, asking their parents to help them find a stick of appropriate size, and almost immediately chastised myself for not just cutting some saplings along the ditch banks myself. We had everything from fence posts to firewood appearing in the corner of the classroom where the walking sticks gathered.

This week, we finally got to work creating 30-some unique walking sticks destined to become companions on whatever adventures their owners embark upon. The kids have been asked to choose a theme for their walking stick.

“And what exactly is a theme?” one of the kids asked.

I was called up short.

“A theme is something you repeat,” I answered, which lead us to a brainstorming session full of ideas for their creations.

For some, the stick itself was inspiring with comments like, “these branches look like deer antlers.”

For others, their walking sticks celebrate some hobby, like the calf they are raising for 4-H or a favorite sport. It’s pretty natural for adults to do this kind of introspection, but a rather weighty task for 10-year-olds.

“For sure, your walking stick will tell us something about you,” I tell my young artists.

Jakie’s walking stick broom definitely said something about him. He was practical and frugal, which included that one-dollar bill he gave me as a present on my 60th birthday. There’ve been lots of days in the country since that occasion, and believe it or not, I still have that dollar bill.

Last modified Nov. 9, 2017

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