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Mack Williams: Creaking wood and popping bones

The other day, it must have been a particularly busy day for computer advertising of natural remedies, because the pop-ups kept “popping!” A great many were for weight loss, increased memory, and some for physical “fun” (if you know what I mean); but a good many of them had to do with supplements for things which, instead of going “bump in the night,” go “creak in the day,” usually upon first getting out of bed.

These advertised remedies also covered things which go “pop” (knees), but wooden and metallic creaks and squeaks are best remedied with WD-40 (some other “squeaks” with d-Con).

After shutting down my computer, I decided to go out and take a walk for the benefit of some of my personal creaking and popping sounds (actually for their lessening and possible extinction, not their benefit).

Across the way from my house, on Danville’s Grove Street, from somewhere near the top of a tree’s windblown boughs, I heard something which sounded every bit like that creaking sound produced by a wooden rocking chair. It was quite strange! This brought back a scene from mountain vacations when my daughter Rachel and son Jeremy were young, especially our family’s trips to the Moses Cone House on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I fondly remember resting in a rocking chair on the mansion’s expansive porch (but not totally at rest, for I was rocking). My vista included mountains, clouds, trails for horses and people (horse trails including both), and reflective fishing lake.

That rocking chair was definitely “a seat with a view.” My grandmother Williams had a “seat” placed at a respectable distance in the backyard of her mountain-foothills home, but its view wasn’t much (the associated wooden door creaked, too).

The other day’s “rocking chair sound in a tree” also made me think of a man who made and sold rather “rustic” furniture on Highway 301 between Boone and Blowing Rock. His “creations” of chairs, stools, sofas, tables, etc. were like works of natural art.

For anyone having built or purchased a log cabin out in the country, a Budget Truck trip to his establishment could have fulfilled their home’s functional and decorative needs, giving the impression of “logs without” and “logs within.”

Every time I drove past his open-air (rained and snowed-on) displayed wares, I had the impression that he had skipped the “middleman” of the lumber yard, and had just gone out into the woods, sawed off some limbs, and nailed them together in the general shapes of the most popular types of furniture. I couldn’t detect the use of a lathe for sanding or for anything else. If PBS’ Norm Abrams or Roy Underhill had done this sort of thing, then the running times of episodes of “The New Yankee Workshop” and “The Woodwright’s Shop” would have been halved.

If wood has an inherent “creaking” sound, I suppose it was also lying there in wait in that “furniture” along Highway 321, with only the application of a little (or a lot) of weight to extract it.

“Wood’s voice” has spoken to me in every place I’ve lived in and been, including the Old Concord Road, Granite Quarry School (especially the wooden floors of the old torn-down building ), Salisbury, North Wilkesboro, Lutheridge, Boone, Yanceyville and Danville, Virginia, etc. (I haven’t been to the Petrified Forest, but I think the wood there is pretty much mute.)

In addition to my personal creaking, popping sounds, my personality traits are, as we all say, “In my bones.” The sounds sometimes made by wood, crafted and un-crafted, can be said to be “In a tree’s bones,” too.

Not long ago, a tree trimming service was out on Danville’s Grove Street across the road from my house. The day after their work, I walked out to my car to go to the grocery store. Even though the wind was up, I didn’t hear that familiar creaking sound which I had become used to hearing for several years now. I had only heard it during fall and winter, when not cushioned and mellowed by the sound-soaking, enwrapping leaves.

Those trimmings, not the product of logging, weren’t destined for the sawmill, so I know that creaking sound won’t be reincarnated in a rocking chair or door.

It will most likely be heard in some fireplace, where flame’s “woodworking” skills will fashion that “creak” into an explosive fireplace “pop,” possibly accompanied by a few sparks.

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