Oh, wait. That’s a dreidel.
When Bob’s daughter announced she would have a baby in the fall, he decided to build his first grand baby a cradle. Twenty four years ago Bob built a rocking crib for his kids, one that was huge enough to accommodate a toddler. Chelsea didn’t need something so big for the new baby. Just a cradle to rock a newborn to sleep.
The internet has made it easy to sift through the hundreds of project plans. In a few days, Bob narrowed the prospects down to 3 possibilities. After ordering and looking over the plans, he decided on one that is simple and elegant. At least, that’s my verdict. I love the one he picked. It has a Little House on the Prairie look about it.
After deciding on a plan, Bob picked locally grown mesquite to use. That wasn’t the first plan; originally, we looked at using salvage wood, lumber with a history. The history came with a terrific story and exorbitant price tag. We made a trip to a local mesquite mill to buy the materials.
I’ve seen lumber mills, but put them in the Georgia Pacific domain. I didn’t realize that they might be a local asset so when we visited Slushie’s mill, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Entering his yard, we saw acres of mesquite logs and an old pole barn. Slushie gave us a Lone Star wave, beer gripped in his hand. He guided us into his workshop, past slab tables of mesquite inlaid with turquoise, polished and ready to sell. “Add the turquoise and it’s ART work,” he told us. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.) “ART work, get it. Call it ART and you can charge 3 times what it’d normally be worth.” (Wink, nudge.)
A couple of times, he offered us a beer; our refusals didn’t discourage him. Judging by the empties set all over the shop, he and the ART work are steady drinking buddies. He was a funny person to visit, but his portable sawmill had been down for months and he wasn’t sure when he’d get around to fixing it.
Bob and I checked Craigslist, looking for a rancher who needed property cleared of mesquite. Although we found a few possibilities, the timing wasn’t right. I found a couple of sawmills: one in Gonzales and one in Boerne. The Boerne sawmill had mesquite lumber at half the price of Slushie’s.
A trip to Montell in the hill country in July coincided with our hunt for cradle wood. It was there that we found some downed pecan trees. Pecan is the state tree of Texas and Bob’s grand-daughter is a Texas state baby. Just seemed logical to use some of that pecan.
After Bob cut three 5′ long logs, we tried to pick them up. I knew I’d not be much help, but I watched Bob haul a 180 pound axis deer a couple of days before. I considered that I’d be good for 15% of the carry load. Impossible. We found out later that pecan is a dense hardwood. Bob wrapped straps around the logs, tied an end to his truck, and dragged them out of the brush and under a tree. He tossed one end of a strap over a tree branch and hoisted the pecan wood with the come-along, swinging it to the back of his truck.
We drove through San Antonio, heading toward Gonzales where John, the sawmill’s operator, was waiting for us. The truck carried 400-500 lbs of pecan logs, 80 lbs of axis deer meat, and all of our camping gear. We looked like Okies, but excited Okies since we had pecan lumber for the baby’s cradle.
We met John at the Buckee’s on 123 and 21 and followed him to his workshop. Dressed in his Sunday suit, John explained that he’d just gotten back from a funeral as he retrieved his old backhoe from a nearby shed. After yanking the pecan logs off the truck and to the dirt, he examined the lumber.
“Looks too dry.” (WHAT???!!) My eyes got big and I looked from John to Bob.
Bob said that he had thought there was sufficient sap left in the wood, but he wasn’t sure. There’s a line between too wet where a kiln has to dry and stabilize the lumber for furniture building and too dry to use for something as intricate as the cradle. Our lumber had crossed the line. That’s a piece of information I would have liked to have before I’d sweated my buns off, I thought in a huff. Never mind that most of the time Bob was sweating his buns off, I was on the ground tossing out “Oh, Bob! Be careful,” watching and helping not a bit.
I could hardly listen to Bob talk to John about a pecan bottom that needed clearing and some mesquite lumber that might be sawn for us.
I am not sure why I was so upset, but I could hardly see the dumb back road for the tears. Bob reached across the front seat, nudging my hand into his.
“It’s okay. He’ll cut it tomorrow and if it’s too dry, we’ll figure out something else.”
Because Bob can’t take phone calls at work, I got the call: “It’s too dry to use. I’ll save it for you.” I couldn’t think of anything to say. “You all could make some nice benches or tables with it,” he offered. Thanks. I’ll let Bob know.
You know, I’ve been on the cradle path with Bob since he found out he was having a grand baby. By now, it’s July 9th with a baby ETA of October 3. I can’t just toss out this story in one part; this is the end of Part 1. Spoiler alert (because I hate bad surprises). The baby won’t sleep in a drawer.