I think everyone in America could benefit by emulating Jed Clampett in a lot of ways, but one way in particular.
When Jed – the family patriarch in the popular 1960s television show “The Beverly Hillbillies” – had a problem, or was otherwise thinking hard on something, or wasn’t even thinking of anything at all but simply enjoying the wonder of being alive, you’d find him sitting in front of his mansion doing what? Whittling on a stick.
There is something calming about whittling. My dad did it. Yours may have, too. It was the first “grown up” thing I remember him teaching me.
For my seventh birthday I was given my first real pocket knife. In those early days after my dad introduced me to the joys of whittling, I whittled every stick in sight. I was always sitting around, shaving the bark and wood off a stick, enjoying the smooth feel of the stripped yellow or red wood.
I say red because a lot of times, growing up in the Missouri Ozarks, that stick was cedar. Red cedar was, and is, one of my favorite sticks to whittle because of the attractive red-streaks all through it, the relative ease of cutting into the soft wood, and the pleasant smell of the shavings that fall to my feet with every stroke.
I’m glad to say I showed my own oldest boy how to whittle while on our first camping trip a couple of years ago, and that I have his first stick stored away for posterity.
Whittling isn’t wood carving. You don’t necessarily whittle to make anything, although you can, and you don’t really need much, if any, skill. It’s about taking a break from the busy world. It’s about doing something that doesn’t require a lot of thought – though you should always pay attention to the blade – while at the same time it’s something that isn’t being done FOR you.