Most of the men in my family fiddled about with their hands. This means many of my best memories are about making things.
My grandfather Austin and I had a Christmas tradition when I was a small child-maybe 5 or six years old. He would very carefully split walnuts from the nut tray to leave as many complete half shells as possible. Later we would go to the basement workshop with paper, toothpicks, a candle and our walnut shells. A toothpick standing upright in candle wax makes a mast, and a small scrap of paper a sail.
We would then take our walnut boats a couple of blocks down the street to a small stream and bridge, and cast them into the water one at a time, to watch them float away until they rounded the bend. I can just remember asking where they went, and talking about streams, rivers, and oceans and how they all tied together.
I went back to Coshocton in my late twenties to show Nancy where I'd lived. The bridge and stream were still there, exactly as I remembered them. My grandfather is long gone now. This treasured memory stays on. And there are days when I wonder just where those little boats came to rest.
Dale Austin, April, 2006
All images and text Copyright Dale Austin, 1962-2008