Dammit, I hate writing bad news. It’s not unreservedly bad in this case, but there IS unreservedly bad news out there. Things are strange and getting stranger.
THIS piece of bad news is about a good and ethical business being driven under by the Big Box Boys. Timberland Supply here in Kamloops was a place where people interested in genuinely quality axes, saws and other woodland equipment could find what they wanted. Sure, over the years they branched out to snowblowers, outboard motors, weed whackers and generators — but they had quality stuff for those who wanted quality, and didn’t have shoddy crap for those who only wanted shoddy crap.
But, to acknowledge a truism of our age: Shoddy crap wins every time.
I stopped in yesterday to buy an axe, or at least to look and see if they still had the wonderful 3 1/2-pound Swedish HB axes they used to carry. I have one, and thought I’d get another one just to rat-hole it in case something happened. From 500 metres away I could see the place was boarded up and the “OPEN” sign was off. I pulled in anyway and discovered a sign on the door saying, “Closed Permanently.”
I went around the back and discovered the owners clearing out the last of the loose stuff from the store. I went up and shook their hands and thanked them for all the help and quality stuff I’d bought off them and asked what was going on. The elder brother stopped to wipe sweat from his brow. “Well, we just decided to read the writing on the wall before we had our noses rubbed in it,” he said. “We can’t compete with Home Depot.”
That makes me really sad. This area was already poor in quality tools and ethical business people, and now it’s just poorer.
I asked if there was any chance they had any axes left, cash deal. He shrugged and pointed to the back of his pickup. “All I got’s in there.” We went over and had a look. Some of the stuff he had was old stock from when their father had owned the store, kept in the back and never sold for some reason. The jewel in the pile was a gorgeous Walters double bit axe — made in Hull, QC. They actually had two: a felling axe and a chopping axe.
I bought the chopping axe and it’s now not just a classic tool that I will actually use, but a monument to the passing of an era, a souvenir of a time past that will never come again unless we work very hard.
The Walter Axe Company folded up in 1973, so this axe has been waiting for me for 40 years. It’s got pride of place in my tool shed, but it’s not going to just hang on the wall. Often enough I’ll lovingly take that red-headed beauty down off the rack and give her a workout. I think it’s the right way to honour the people who made it and the people who sold it to me. With any luck my son will get that axe some day.
Kinda wish I’d had some happier news to write to bring this blog back to life, but some days you tell the truth as you see it and other days you tell happy stories. Occasionally they’re the same thing, but not today.
In order not to end on a down note, however, let me shout out to some very good people who know a lot about axes and who are helping this old hippie figure out how to make an axe work for him:
The Axe Connected blog, which you can find here. Check ’em out.