This year has been a year where we have learned to appreciate the people in our lives who we love and who have had an influence in our lives.
In November. Andy’s mother died. She was everything a Mother should be and we will miss her greatly. She loved her family and her gift was loving and serving people, inspiring others to be all they could be. She believed in you and made you believe in yourself.
Another loss this year for us was the death of Earl and Kathleen Hills who were a huge influence in our business and wonderful friends. To say they were an influence in our business is a great understatement. They changed the entire focus of our business which in many ways changed our lives. There are a multitude of furniture makers In NM and AZ who are building with Alligator Juniper who are also in their debt.
In 1996 Andy was building traditional South West furniture. Earl Hills walked into his store and showed Andy his first sample of the wonderfully figured, cedar like wood. He explained to Andy that he was cutting fire wood commercially and had come across some incredible large slabs of this unique wood and “I didn’t have the heart to cut it up into firewood.” He wondered if Andy thought he could use it for something.
“Probably the most beautiful North American wood I had ever seen; wonderfully figured, gorgeous rich color, massive in size. The book-matched set of slabs Earl brought me were 4″ thick, about 8′ long and averaged about 30″ wide. Neither he nor I realized they were over 1000 years old,” Andy explains.
Earl asked how much wood Andy thought he could use and he replied, “Everything you can bring me,” and that was the beginning of a 18 year relationship.
From then on, Earl and his wife, Cathleen, hunted the forest for these stately trees. Cathleen would walk through the woods searching for dead trees because they are protected trees in the Gila National forest and their permit only allowed the cutting of dead trees. It takes 1-4 years per inch of thickness to air-dry a thick slab of wood after it is cut green, but because some of these trees had been dead for up to 100 years, they were well cured already and Andy was able to use them immediately.
Andy’s first table was breathtakingly beautiful, not because of Andy’s skill, but because the creator of the universe had given him such wonderful material to work with.
Several times Earl and Kathleen invited Andy and his sons to go with them to harvest trees they thought were special so that Andy could tell them how he wanted them cut. Andy and his sons always left with a great appreciation for these hard-working, humble and loving people.
Before the day they brought us those beautiful slabs, no one, to our knowledge, was using alligator juniper for anything other than firewood and fence posts. We will always be grateful that this gentle, loving couple were able to see the beauty in these trees and “didn’t have the heart to cut it up into firewood.”