He was a quiet man; tall with an easy going personality. I never heard him raise his voice or saw him get angry. Most of the time I saw him sitting on the porch chewing Levi Garrett and whittling on a small piece of cedar. What I remember the most was the way the cedar shavings would make the house smell—nearly indescribable and intoxicating.
That house, even though a small shack by today’s standards, was a safe place for me. It was nestled in the hills of Tennessee with forest all around. He built that house with his own hands. Looking back, that may have been what ingrained in my brain the image of what it means to be a man.
That man was Buford Rector and he was my great-grandfather. As far as I know he could only read a little and didn’t have more than an elementary education. In 1980, the year I was born, he still had a wood stove in the house and had just recently acquired a black and white television (that we would gather around and watch Heehaw).
By the time I came along grandpa was retired. I really didn’t know from what. I was told he drove a big truck of some sort, that he worked at the fire tower in Standing Stone, and that at some time or another he made furniture in Cookeville, TN.
My mother has a few of the things he has made. A simple ladder back chair.
A rocking chair.
And a basket.
Both of the chairs have lived several generations. The rocking chair my mother remembers from when she was a child, so it has to be at least fifty years old and I’m guessing much older. The basket I remember seeing at least three copies of. What I never remember seeing before was the bottom that is stamped with the place he worked and his name.
I did a quick search online about John Maxwell’s Upper Cumberland Craft Center and discovered that they also made dulcimers and other wares. Most of the discussion is about the dulcimers and very little is actually about the factory (I’m assuming it was a factory of some sort). A little clue I came across mentioned that the craft center has become a part of a Tennessee technical school. I want to do some more digging and see if I can discover anything else about this place.
I definitely want to build a couple of my own chairs like these. Who knows, I just might pass them on to my great-grandchildren.