When I was a kid, the local museum sponsored day programs where we’d gather to build kites from sticks and paper, paint them garish colors, then fly them. Kids in Grand Rapids, MI, do something a little more practical: they learn to build snowshoes and birch bark canoes with simple hand tools thanks to two local men, Kevin Finney and Patrick Cronan.
Finney and Cronan came together last year to lead a group of of fifth-graders through building canoes, and this year they’re tackling the art of building Ojibway (Native American)-style snowshoes. They’re opening the opportunity to others, too. The Grand Rapids Press reports:
“Anybody can do this,” Finney said about the process of shaping raw wood from an ash tree into finished shoes. Before you shake your head in disbelief, keep in mind Finney and Cronan are willing to guide you along. The men are teaching a three-day snowshoe-making workshop […] at Blandford Nature Center, during which participants will build a pair of shoes by hand. A variety of skills will be covered, including selecting and bending wood and making simple and effective Native American-style bindings.
This strikes me as truly awesome. As the ‘Post points out, hand-crafted practical items like this offer a personal connection to the past. And workshops of this type teach tool-based self-reliance, encouraging folks to put down the remote control and take on home and auto repair tasks on their own. The Post piece ends with a quote from Kinney that I know will reach into the hearts of Toolmongers:
“It’s important, because it’s out roots of who we are as people,” Kinney said. “Our humanity is tied to what we do with our hands.”
(Photo: Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood, The Grand Rapids Press)
Outdoorsmen To Lead Snowshoe-Making Classes [Mlive.com]