"So you use what you've got, and you learn to make do
you take the old, you make it new…"
Dateline: Dream Chasers
It was a silver patch, on a fake brick linoleum floor.
From the top of the stairs.
All else was dark.
Down there in the cellar.
32 Victoria Blvd, Kenmore, NY, 14217.
The cellar of dreams.
My father's kingdom of 2 x 4's, sawdust, circular saw, wood lathe and a Stanley No. 1 plane.
The workbench of dreams.
It was back there past the washer and dryer; back there past the broken bicycles; back there where the nylon folding chairs waited for summer; back there under the furnace ducts; back there where dad dreamed.
Under a silver work light clamped to an overhead floor beam dad stood and drilled, and glued, and turned, and tried to hammer his way to a better life.
For his family.
For me and my two sisters.
My lullaby growing up was the sound of a hammer on wood and the scrapping of the Stanley No. 1 plane.
When I pick up sawdust, I get to once again hold my father's hand. The paint aisle of Home Depot, my father's cologne, and basement stairs, basement stairs will always lead,
to my father's dreams.
I never turned into what my father wanted me to be, a fix-it guy, a handyman.
And early on, my lack of mechanical being, separated us, he yelled at me, I made fun of him, my Grandmother would step in.
Later, after he was gone, it dawned on me that "Dad's projects" that hung in the rafters, that lined the wall and linoleum floor, were monuments to the American Dream.
Were monuments to the geniuses of the workbench.
Were monuments to the jacks of all trades.
And that Dad's biggest project was not made out of wood and nails smoothed by the Stanley No. 1 plane.
That his biggest project was the son who mocked him as he stood in sawdust dreams,
and dreamt of building a child into a man.
So Dad, this story is for you.
A story of sawdust dreams.
Of wood on a lathe and the whirl of a drill.
Of the American Dream, and workbench kings.
It is an apology for the things we said,
and the tears, that stained the sawdust floor.
"…I'll pull that engine apart and patch her up 'til she's running right…"
His name is Dieter Stanford.
Of Stanford Lures.
And he is a sawdust dreamer.
He is what my father, hoped to be.
He is what built America, one hammer at a time, one loop of planed wood at a time, one dream at a time.
Dieter, and his team of friends, brothers, sons, wives and daughters, spent some $1,400 dollars and bought the smallest booth space at the largest dealer fishing show to showcase their workbench genius, among the giants.
Their booth, made of a black curtains draped over old wooden doors.
Their product, hand-carved cedar crankbaits.
But it was the sawdust, on the floor that drew me to them.
Dieter: "We can make about 300 items a week, but to keep up with that Ben brought our drill press with us and he's back there working on orders." Dieter says they can ramp up the production to more than that depending on how many of his friends and relatives are around to work.
Back home in Cuthbert, Ga., Dieter builds his cedar dreams in an old gas station. "I make the cedar blank, drill the holes, glue in the weight, dip them, air brush each one, clean coat them, then cut the lip slots…"
"…Ann, his wife, glues in the lips," says Rob Toal, friend, part owner and head sales guy for Stanford Lures. "We have them in one store now, S&P Custom Rods in Woodville, Texas…and we also can now sell them on Tackle Warehouse."
Pretty much the whole team of Stanford Lures is at the show in their tiny booth space. "We are probably into this show for $3,000 to $4,000 in expenses but we are saving money, got three of us to a room over there at the Holiday Inn."
Back home in Cuthbert, before one of the lures from the cedar sawdust dreams ever makes it to the one store in Texas, or to the shelves of Tackle Warehouse…before any of that happens….Dieter fishes with it…in his backyard pool.
He sits on a folding summer chair, hat on and casts into his pool, "I test every one, they got to be right, man, they just got to be right, I honestly believe, my opinion, that it is the best lure made, I…."
Then he goes quite, just shaking his head yes.
And I give Dieter his moment,
of standing in his sawdust dreams.
"…I'm a Jack of all trades, we'll be alright…"
"Tell me Dieter, what to you is the American Dream?"
He looks not at, but past me, past me to all those booths, all those big companies on the floor of ICAST, purses his lips and then answers, with only one word.
And then he stops talking, and in a moment he has to wipe his eyes, and I look away, or I will have to wipe my eyes too.
Dieter sees liberty.
I see my dad, and his sawdust floor.
"DB…it is the liberty to do stuff…the liberty to succeed, or to fail, but the liberty to try to give it your best shot."
Things my dad said, but that I never really heard until a stranger at ICAST echoed the voice in our basement.
"There is no guarantee, if we don't work our ass of, we fail, we all fail."
Dieter doesn't know this, but after our interview, I went into the men's room, found an open stall, went in, closed the door…and broke into tears.
Because in the aisles of ICAST, my dad came back to me.
My father brought me to a booth of hinged old doors.
A booth with sawdust on the floor, and a working drill.
And a stranger named Dieter.
A sawdust dreamer.
Who told me not of liberty, but showed me, liberty at work, of this dream we call America.
A dream built one tiny booth at a time.
A dream built by one workbench genius at a time.
A dream that lives, every time we walk,
on sawdust floors.
"…there's a new world coming, I can see the light
I'm a Jack of all trades, we'll be all right."
Jack Of All Trades