Sticks and Stones

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I don’t know his real name, but around here they call him The Stickman. I’m pretty sure he’s some kind of superhero.

I first heard of The Stickman at Huckleberries Online, an internet gathering place for residents and friends of the North Idaho and Eastern Washington regions, where he and I are both regular commenters. He’s a colorful local personality known for the beautiful walking sticks he creates and gives away, and he can be found most days of the week at his home near the quiet end of the Tubbs Hill hiking trail, sitting and crafting in his garage workshop in an open invitation to any and all comers who might like to stop by and visit for awhile.

Yesterday afternoon, I took the kids to meet him.

As we drove by his house looking for a place to park, there was no question in my mind that I’d found the right man. He was sitting in a lawn chair, surrounded by sticks of all sizes and shapes, from small ones sticking out of pots on the floor to giant, twisty ones adorning the walkway leading from the front door. Still, as we walked up, I asked tentatively, “Are you … The Stickman?”

“That’s me,” he said, and with a smile beckoned us to come closer and see what he was working on. It was a small log, about four or five inches in diameter, hollowed out and decorated all over with hand carvings and stipples of paint in a lovely, native design. “This,” he explained, “is a didgeridoo. Have you heard of it?” We hadn’t, so he gave us a demonstration, explaining that it was an instrument made and used by the aborigines of Australia, and then holding it up to his mouth to create a long, deep, haunting note that seemed to hang in the air after he was done. I instantly recognized the sound from movies I have seen—Crocodile Dundee and Quigley Down Under. He also showed us a bullroarer, another aboriginal instrument, a flat piece of wood, elliptical in shape, decorated and attached to a long cord. When it is swung in hard circles by the player, it emits a low frequency, vibrato sound that is difficult to describe. It was beautiful.

The sign over the entrance to The Stickman’s workshop says “Sticks and Stones”, and it is a fitting name. The table inside was covered with small wooden bowls, each filled with polished rocks and shells. The kids squealed and shared discoveries as they looked through them, taking what they wanted at The Stickman’s invitation. He also encouraged us to choose our very own walking sticks from among the dozens lined up in a long, gleaming row against the garage wall. They were sanded smooth and soft, and decorated with an assortment of shiny stones. As we each picked one, he asked us why we’d chosen it. Katie selected hers for the deep reddish-pink stone on the end of it, while I chose one made of a gorgeous oak wood. Caleb’s was just the right height for his small frame.

The sticks and stones come from all over. The Stickman picks them up on his travels, and often wakes up to find anonymous donations of materials laying in his driveway, no doubt a gift in kind from those who have walked this way before.

The children were entranced by everything there was to see and to touch. Caleb, the proverbial bull in a china shop, narrowly avoided several spills, while Katie, my little princess, picked through each pile of rocks as carefully as an archaeologist examining precious relics. As The Stickman and I chatted, he would pause every few moments, hearing them admiring some newfound trinket, to tell them to keep it. They were in heaven.

Finally, we had to tear ourselves away to go pick up Paul at work. It wasn’t easy separating the kids from their freshly discovered wonderland, and by the time we walked back to the car, we were laden down with treasures: walking sticks, shells, stones, and a little wooden box carved to look like a beehive. Katie and Caleb wore grins as wide as their heads, and I was soaking in a delicious sense of love and goodwill for humankind.

We drove by The Stickman’s house one more time on our way out. He was standing in the driveway, bidding us farewell with a didgeridoo serenade while the kids laughed and waved. It was wonderful.

All was quiet in the car as the kids admired their sticks and examined their stones in the light of the sun. “I think The Stickman was a nice man,” Katie said after a few moments. “He gave us all this good stuff for free! I bet he believes in God for sure.”

I just smiled.

I didn’t ask him, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

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16 responses »

  1. Wow, great post, Katrina. So glad your kids enjoyed it. The Stickman is a genuinely generous and talented person.

  2. I love reading your posts….I find myself picturing what you write about. I can just see your kids’ delighted faces and the amazement in their eyes. What a great experience- likely one they will remember for a long time.

  3. What a superb post! DFO needs to find you a gig as a journalist – you are that good Katrina.

    My daughter lives just a few doors from The Stickman and I have seen him in driving by, but never knew he was the infamous Stickman.

    Thanks to you, I will be visiting him with my camera and hope he allows me to photograph him. I love to capture interesting people and attempt to tell in pictures, what you so eloquently do in words.

    Say hi to Paul for me – I used to work with him at CP, way back when…

    Doug Fredericks
    http://wwww.dougfredericks.com

  4. Oooh, this is lovely! I’ll have to come back and really read it. (I’m at work taking a skim the blogs break)

  5. Thank you all for your wonderful comments!

    Doug, you made my day! I would love to see your photos when you get them developed!

  6. If you weren’t writing about me, I would love to come visit me from your piece you wrote. You have a very nice way with words and it makes for very enjoyable reading. I’m glad you and the kids had such a good time, that’s always my intent. I was going to have about 35 5th graders come by on Friday, but the rain stopped them for now. I am sure another day they will end up standing right in front of me. I have had some response from other bloggers and hope they come by. As for publicity, I definitely shy away from it, as it’s a neighborhood thing and they are for free. Otherwise, I am sure I would be over-run in a single day if an interest story was published. I love what I’m doing and hope I can continue forever. Again, thanks for the kind words and keep up the writing, you have a talent there and someone will grab you soon. The Stickman

  7. Free walking sticks hard to believe in this day & age that one would put that much time into a product & give it away!
    Mad Max

  8. It was a great experience, for me and for the kids. Thanks, Stickman! And don’t worry too much about the publicity. If all the people who read my blog came at the same time, it would still be a smaller group than that 5th grade class you’re expecting! 😀

  9. OOH, I love that you had this experience – all of you, and what an incredible day of experiences The Stickman must have everyday, too!! I’m glad he stopped by and saw your eloquent words, Katrina!!

    Thanks, Stickman, for showing us true kindness. I’ll be sure to stop by if ever I am in the area! (Right after I stop by Katrina’s!!)

  10. I can’t believe The Stickman read this post! How awesome!

    And what a cool person. How exciting that your children were so excited about that and had such a great experience. You should post pictures of your new treasures!

  11. I now drop by this blog every other day or so, just from the visit from her and her kids and what they experienced. We do things that make us smile and make others smile, hence my passion in life. The Stickman

  12. Stickman, you are the best! I can tell you just love what you do. You’re welcome to hang around my blog anytime! Expect us to stop by Sticks and Stones again when the weather gets warm. I want to introduce you to my husband! 🙂

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