Do you live to work or do you work to live? At Christmas, I was gifted with Clint Harp’s book: “HANDCRAFTED – A WOODWORKERS STORY”. Two or three years ago, I heard Clint Harp share his story at a Home and Garden Show in Austin. Knowing that he was scheduled to present an overview of his claim to fame on the Fixer Upper, I gravitated to the space where he was speaking in time to catch his opening remarks. I set spellbound throughout his presentation.
His story is impressive. Coming from a highly successful background as a sales person in the medical field, he chose to leave it all behind and pursue his dream of building furniture. I remembered being shocked at the Home and Garden show when he shared that his first endeavor at building furniture was from salvaging reclaimed wood from wooden pallets. Can you imagine starting a furniture building business and asking the folks at H-E-B if they had any wooden pallets that you could use? Wow! That would be a stretch even for me.
I know virtually nothing about woodworking; however, I do remember enjoying woodshop as an elective in junior high school. I still have in my possession a couple of things that I made. For starters, I made a picture frame. A friend, who was a budding western artist, gave me a small painting and I wanted a nice frame. The painting is one of the things I’ve treasured since the 7thgrade. Consequently, the painting along with the frame followed me to college and to the forty different places the General and I have lived over the past fifty years.
I also have a pipe rack that I made for my dad. He smoked a pipe for many years. Did I mention, there is nothing that smells quite as good as cherry blend pipe tobacco? In my late twenties, I attempted to smoke a pipe for about two weeks. Never, have I been that sick. It didn’t take me long to figure out that you’d have to be certifiably crazy to continue doing something that made you sick even if you thought it made you look cool. After all, I had the herringbone tweed sports coat with the leather patches on the elbows. Add the pipe and I looked brilliant – well, maybe not so much!
My daughter has a couple of bookcases in her home that I built in 1974. We had just purchased our first home in Ft. Worth and I knew what I wanted for a bookcase. Unfortunately, I could find what I wanted and I probably couldn’t have afforded to purchase them at the time anyway. Consequently, I built my own.
Years later, when we lived in Midland, I built a similar bookcase for my parents for Christmas one year. Consequently, after they no longer needed the bookcase, I incorporated it into our home. Despite the fact that it is homemade, I think it has a good look. I can’t take credit for the design. A former girlfriend’s father, who was a carpenter, built one similar for their home. I liked the design and I filed it away in my head for later use.
The thing that surprised me most about Clint Harp’s story is that he didn’t grow up building things. His maternal grandfather, who was very skilled at craftsmanship, created a dinning table for his home that seated twelve people. Consequently, as a thirty-year-old, Clint had this insatiable urge to walk away from a lucrative career that he hated, to pursue building tables.
Clint’s is a compelling story and he is now living his dream. The thing that I found fascinating about his book is the back-stories woven into his history. I remember thinking when I heard him speak at the Home and Garden Show, that he was a very effective communicator. He was articulate and poised and seemed perfectly at home with a microphone in his hand. The message that came through had a relationship to his passion for making things out of wood. Because of his maternal grandfather’s influence, it may have even been woven in his DNA. Who’s to say?
But how do you know that before you actually do it? Maybe at some level, life has something to do with trial and error. You learn by doing. You gravitate toward the things that feel right and you steer clear of circumstances that make you uncomfortable.
Though Clint grew up with a loving family, it was far from a stress free environment. His parents divorced when he was three and his sister was six. In short order, both parents remarried and the balancing act of living between two families emerged overnight as a challenge he had to learn to navigate.
Clint chose an interesting word to describe the every-other-weekend shifting of kids between their parents. For starters, his mother and step-dad moved from Atlanta to Ashville, NC shortly after their marriage. For the next eight years, every other weekend, both parents would drive two hours to the halfway point between Atlanta and Ashville for the exchange of children. The dad and step-mom would park on one side of the parking lot at Kentucky Fried Chicken and his mom and step-dad would park thirty yards away on the other side of the parking lot. The kids would then navigate the thirty-yards on their own. Clint referred to it as “your basic prisoner exchange”.
He talks about the stress of trying to please both parents and the importance of figuring out what makes them explode, laugh or smile. You figured out what you did that seemed to work to promote peace, and you chose to do it again and again.
The book is filled with nuggets of truth discovered through trial and error. I found it a very thoughtful read and worthy of one’s time. It includes a kaleidoscope of topics and issues that deal with family, relationships, challenges, risks, and dreams. The content of the book gave me much to think about. I recommend it.
All My Best!