By James E. Price
Today I decided to beat the heat and stay in the shade while completing a project involving putting a helve in a small bearded hatchet that I will use in future Ozark traditional woodworking demonstrations. The Ozark Border was logged off by huge lumber companies in the 1880’s and 90’s, leaving a wasteland of scorched earth after wildfires consumed thousands of acres of treetops and underbrush. Circa 1900 the ravaged land could be purchased for fifty cents per acre. Many families came to this land from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Hungary through Ellis Island and started a new life in the wastelands left by The the lumber barons. They brought with them their cultures, languages, music, and tools that were very alien to the Scots-Irish base population. When I was a child I marveled at their tools, particularly their axes which looked so different than the ones my family used. Over the years I was able to acquire quite a few of the tools brought from The Baltic States and continue to restore and learn how to use them. It was time to haft a little hatchet and get it ready to use to inform the public of the migration of a population that has fully blended with the Ozark lifeway. In the restoration of the little hatchet I left as much of the patina on it as possible and sharpened it so it can be used. I start many projects with an axe or hatchet rather than a saw. It is the old expedient way of working wood I learned many years ago.