While most 25-year old’s are focused on the latest iPhone or other technological advance, Weston Hughes of Booneville is going the other way, several centuries.
Hughes is learning all he can about the use of a broad axe and woodworking techniques as old as the 19th century.
“It’s kind of out of character for a 25-year old I guess, but that’s what interests me,” he said last week.
But, Hughes cautions, he is merely a novice.
“I haven’t been doing it long at all. That’s what I’m trying to get into with Paul Glidewell,” said Hughes. “He was my Scoutmaster and Royal Ranger leader when I was a kid so I knew he did that and I was really interested in it so I called him a while back and told him I was interested in learning it.
“There’s really no one my age that does it. There’s really none other than Paul.”
Hughes figures he can serve as a link to future generations.
“It just kind of intrigues me. It’s something no one does and it’s a past-time that going to be lost and I’d really rather see it not be lost. If I can pass it on to somebody, like Paul is, that would be great,” said Hughes.
“Somebody needs to learn it,” said Glidewell. “Weston is a good kid. I told him I’d teach him what little bit I know.”
Hughes put his new interest on display in the Pioneer Village in Searcy during the annual A Weekend Of Living History, held Nov. 3-5.
“They had produce, blacksmiths, (and) people from the Navajo Nation; people making pork skins, and the environment down there. They were some of the nicest people you’d every meet in your life,” said Hughes.
Glidewell described it as “Silver Dollar City without the rides.”
There were about 1,000 people on the first day of the event Hughes said, “and they actually said it was one of their smaller (crowds) but they said our exhibit was a hit. They invited us back.”
Glidewell and Hughes’ demonstration area included how beams were notched as well as a cache of tools Glidewell has collected over the years.
“When we got to the end (Hughes) got worn out swinging that axe,” said Glidewell. “But that was when he was starting to get the hang of it.”
“It’s not something that I have a real expertise at or anything, but that’s the goal,” Hughes said.
Hughes said he believes he is learning from the best in Glidewell, who owns a construction company and Broad Ax Beam Works in Booneville.
“A broad axe is what you hue with and you use your other single side ax to cut the notches. There’s so much to know and he knows how to do all of it. Watching him work is something,” said Hughes. “That is a lot harder and a lot more skilled than it looks, and it’s so frustrating because he makes it look so easy.
“I watched him split a chalk line with a broad axe.”
Among multiple public and private projects, Glidewell’s company was responsible for reconstructing the Chism House in Chismville. Built about 1845 by Dr. Stephen Chism as a wedding present for his bride, Janetta Logan the daughter of the man for whom Logan County is named, the house had been placed on the first list of most endangered historic places.
The woodworking is a natural progression, Hughes said, as he had already gotten into cast iron cooking.
“I’m kind of trying to expand. Everything I can learn, and Paul is just a wealth of knowledge,” said Hughes. “I don’t hang out with a lot of people my age now because if you hang out with people your age what can you learn from them, except to get in trouble.”
Hughes, who has been married for just over a year to the former Ashley Paul, has also worked for his father in sheet rock work for his father’s company, Hughes Painting, since he was 16.