My Break in Texas

It’s the close of Easter week where I’m just finishing up an Easter break from the UK to spend time with family in my second-home state of Texas. It’s been a good week seeing the tornadic storms come in and then dissipate over 24 hours. I’d been missing the hard rains and the ditches filled with torrents during such periods. We don’t get such storms in the UK where the sky looks like lace curtains picked out in electric sheets of lightning. I sometimes wonder what it is about Texas that I like or liked from the beginning. Perhaps it’s the rugged, individualistic approach to life. Whether it’s the rustic pioneering spirit that lives on by lesser degree or the fact that people nod a good morning when you never knew them I don’t know, but the saying ‘Texas friendly’ has always been real toward me.

It’s sunny today. I have but one day left before the silver bird carries me home again. Truth is I spent half of my working life living and working in Texas. The bluebonnets are coming to a close but others will take their place over the next month but then of course there is some stunning wild life yet to come. Flying in on the Dreamliner was my smoothest and most comfortable flight ever. I’m glad I did not fly in on the storm day.

I know it’s strange to most, but it is a treat to rest awhile under the mesquites I love more than any other tree. Those moments take me back to a time when I almost gave up. I looked at a mesquite stem, took off the branches, harvested the wood and made my first piece of furniture. I made a second and a third and the third sold. From the branches I made small things by the dozen and these I sold one by one, hour by hour, day by day. Texans were always kind in buying my things – salt and pepper shakers and tortilla rolling pins for those who couldn’t flip flop them hand to hand. My life turned around and I was making a living with my hands again and so it went. Imagine designing mesquite furniture for the White House. My dad was so proud of me. Now you can see why I am so happy sitting underneath the branches of a lowly mesquite tree.

20 thoughts on “My Break in Texas”

  1. Stephen McGonigle

    A life well lived whereby you’ve had to earn your way is better by far than any inherited wealth or lottery win, nice though those may be. What is evident are your sense of values, be it work, materials, place or family and friends. It is these underlying principles which are evident in your work and teaching that are in turn attractive to myself and I suspect many others. It can often seem that we live in a world of people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  2. Paul I am not able to put into words as Stephen has but agree totally.
    I do feel for you with part of your family so far away, together with a selfish gratitude that you now live in the UK.
    Best wishes John

  3. Paul, there are many places across the US like that, mostly small towns and villages, there are, also many places where hard work, pride in earning your food and home are treasured also.
    I thank you for what you’re teaching and would just say an ocean may separate us but ideas and sentiments do not.

  4. Kind of funny. Before I really got into woodworking, i thought of mesquite only as a wood for barbecuing, for the smell and taste it imparts on a good bbq. Maybe its part of the “feel” of a real texas bbq. Sound like the mesquite tree is your “Rosebud”.

  5. “You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas!” — Davy Crockett. You are always welcome Paul!
    Jim, a fellow Texan

  6. Mesquite is such a lovely wood. I visited my brother not that long ago in Texas. I bought some Mesquite wood there to make your wall clock (will be my 5th one – I just like making them). I will also use your video to carve a Texas star on it. Then, I will give it to my brother for Christmas.

  7. Harvey H Kimsey

    Paul, did you ever get hold of live oak and make something from it?? I’ve never seen any but I hear it’s incredibly hard and strong. I spent 10 years in TX and have fond memories of the hill country around Austin.

  8. Paul,
    I’d love to hear more about your adventures in green woodworking, particularly in central Texas as I teach hand tool woodworking to children in Austin using many of your methods.

    I really want to incorporate hikes, nature and sourcing wood into my curriculum.

    I hope a public appearance in Texas is coming soon?

  9. You may have mentioned it in the past but I am curious as to how you ended up in Texas so many years ago. I have traveled this great country and there are so many places where woodworking thrives. I grew up in the hardwood forests of the northeast and never left. I really enjoy your work and teaching.


  10. I’m so happy you did not quit, I’d imagine you’d feel a lot less fulfilled now if you had quit, we are lucky to have you as a teacher and I have learnt so much from you.

  11. “Those moments take me back to a time when I almost gave up.”

    I would love to sit down a listen to your life’s story.

    1. GReat idea! Once Paul finishes the loving room in the new house with a cozy fireplace, “Paul’s fireside chats” can be added to his vlog, where he sits in the rocker next to a cozy fire and rehashes stories with George and other turning points.

  12. Texas is my home state! I look forward to retiring there. 🙂

    I appreciate your videos. Have a great time in TX.

  13. I’m currently living in Texas and making furniture using only hand tools in my spare time. I learned a lesson about mesquite wood recently. It has a very high allergen property to its dust. While carving spindles for a chair with my spoke shave I was nearly overwhelmed by the amount of mucus my nose was producing. I slowed down grabbed some masks and finished the project realizing that my days of working with mesquite would be minimal. Back to oak, cherry, walnut and maple for me. A lovely, heavy, rustic chair and the last one I’ll be making out of Mesquite.

  14. Michael Stauffer

    Being born and raised in the Midwest US, I barley knew the delights of Texas until the Air Force decided I needed to live in Del Rio Texas. As I crossed the Red River that early spring of 1977, what seemed a barren wasteland to some, I found to be paradise. The deeper south I drove into West Texas the better it got. Early spring purple sage in full bloom, acres and acres of it. I too know of Uvalde and the Hill Country. That sweet mysterious aroma of Texas Friendly oozed from every ice cold spring, every curve around a mesquite filled hill, every vista. I soon determined that even though I may not live in Texas now, I am forever in my heart a citizen of the Republic of Texas. Paul, I’m so glad you know of what I speak.

  15. collin Gallagher

    The Hill Country is my special place the family and I retreat to for peace of mind.
    A small place outside of Wimberley.

  16. Uncanny – I was in the area taking my first foundational wood working course at a school you helped found, during the same week you were visiting.
    Without your videos I wouldn’t have dived in to this journey and spent that chunk of money for instruction. The other funny thing is, I had no idea you were involved in that school until the last ten minutes of my final day of class. Then it all clicked, the teachings were the same as your videos, using the same types of tools.
    Couldn’t have asked for a greater introduction and base of skills passed down directly from you, just wish I could have shaken your hand to thank you for the continued guidance and inspiration.
    So thank you!

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