Saturday Stream of Consciousness – Mountain Man

This week I stumbled across a fun little blog writing project that is called the SATURDAY STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS.

The idea is every Friday a subject is posted and on Saturday you write a complete stream of consciousness blog entry pertaining to that subject.

Today’s subject was OBJECT.

I took a look around my writing desk and the very first OBJECT that I saw was my Mountain Man carving.

2012-11-09 12.58.42I carved this mountain man during a cabinet making course I took at trade school. At the time that I attended I intended to make a career out of creating fine cabinetry.

Only problem was I sucked at cabinetry.

I have long since accepted the fact that when it comes to being handy I make Red Green look good.

Or – as Clint Eastwood might say – “A man has got to know his limitations.”

The Mountain Man has always represented a special kind of symbolism for me.

I grew up in the hills of Northern Ontario and at the time I thought of those hills as mountains – but later in life when I hitchhiked out to British Columbia and saw what real mountains truly looked like I gained perspective.

“Talking to men who had but lately kissed their wives goodnight and slept under storm-tight roofs, they must have had a look in their eyes and a way of a standing. Their shirts and breeches of buckskin or elkskin had many patches sewed on with sinew. They were worn thin between the patches, were black from many campfires and greasy from many meals. They were threadbare and filthy, they smelled bad, and any Mandan had a lighter skin. They gulped, rather than ate the tripes of buffalo. They had forgotten the use of chairs. Words and phrases, mostly obscene, of Nez Perce, Clatsoy, Manadan, Chinook came naturally to their tongues.” – Bernard DeVoto

In fact, one of my personal favorite go-to movies when I am sick or weary or just want a little comfort is The Mountain Men.

The carving is made from obeche – (oh-bee-she) – a West African wood, used for racing boats and sea planes and Fender guitars. The word is a song and you can’t say it without smiling softly and smelling the tall African grass and feeling the sunshine and the water splashing. It is a wood that sings and soars and it sometimes reminds me of the time I road in the back of a work truck with a group of African field hands as we drove away from a long week of fiddlehead picking in Northern BC.

They sang working chants – songs that I had previously heard only on Tarzan and Jungle Jim movies and there was something in that way that they sang those tunes that reminded me that no matter how much of this world a man has seen and experienced there is always a shade that dances behind experience – something that you haven’t seen just yet.

“Sing,” they told me and I sang old Willy Nelson and Waylon Jennings and Gordon Lightfoot tunes right back at them – as many as I could remember. We sang together – them in their tongue and me in mine riding in the darkness in the shadow of the Northern Rockies.

And sometimes that word – “obeche” – reminds me of the O-Peach-Eee chewing gum that I chewed as a kid and it makes me grin and there’s nothing wrong with grinning, is there?

I had to laminate the original carving blank, gluing four chunks of the wood together, clamping it overnight to harden into a solid block. Then I worked on it with a bandsaw to rough out the shape. Used knives and wood gouges and chisels and rasps and surforms and a spokeshave to get down closer to the man who was hiding inside of that wood. Than I used a Dremel motor tool for the fine detail. I sanded it and finished it with mineral oil to give it that deep yellow sheen. The carving is about thirty years old and it is one of the few belongings that I hang onto.

It is sitting above my desk looking down at me while I type. I can hear him muttering under his beard – “What the hell are you waiting for? Get busy. Get writing.” and then other times I think of him as just standing there, worn down from wandering yet still gazing into the far off horizons of forever-go-yonder and my spirit breathes a deep clear breath of pure mountain air.

Damn it. Now I want a beer.



This post is part of SoCS. Find it here and join in the fun!

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

(PS: The rules of this blogging exercise PROHIBIT editing. It is strictly free-form stream-of-consciousness blogging – and I have stuck to that – but I had to re-edit it to add that Van Damme clip because WordPress froze up on me and I had to re-enter the blog to fix that)

2 responses to “Saturday Stream of Consciousness – Mountain Man

  1. Wow – where do I start?
    Amazing post! You are a fantastic storyteller, and I love your carving. And I learned something new to boot – obeche. It’s so great to meet a fellow Canadian 🙂
    Thank you so much for joining in SoCS! I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog. 😀


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