Seven year old Paxton sat on a tree stump as he held a piece of wood and a whittling knife in his hands. He had been working on the same piece of wood for the past three hours and still couldn’t get the design he wanted. The more frustrated he got, the more aggressive he became with the wood until his hand slipped and the knife jabbed deep into his middle finger. Paxton yelled as he dropped the items out of his hands and grabbed at his finger. Bright red blood seeped out. Some dripped onto the ground, staining the dry leaves below, while some began to soak into his flannel shirt. With clenched teeth Paxton breathed quick shallow breathes, trying to overcome the pain shooting down his finger and hand.
A screen door opened and slammed shut. “Paxton, are you alright!” A deep voice called out as a man ran over. “What the hell did you do!” The man snarled. He stood with his hands on his hips and eyebrows deeply knitted together.
At this point tears were streaming down Paxton’s cheeks and he tried to wipe them away with his sleeve, but it was no use. “I’m sorry dad. I was trying to carve the wood like you showed me and it slipped.” Paxton spoke through broken sobs and gasps of air.
The man’s face softened and he gently took Paxton’s hand to reveal a deep gash. “Let’s get you cleaned up and see it grandma can’t stitch this up.”
Inside Paxton’s dad, Brandon, grabbed the peroxide and gauz while he made Paxton flush the wound out with water to make sure there was no dirt or sawdust inside. Even the lukewarm water seemed to burn. “It hurts.”
“Suck it up buttercup,” Brandon said as he watched Paxton wince. “Pain is psychological. Don’t focus on it, focus on the task at hand.” He handed Paxton the peroxide. “Pour this on it and then wrap it up. We need the bleeding to slow down before your grandma can stitch it up.”
Paxton’s eyes grew wide. “Are you sure it needs stitches?”
“Yes I’m sure. Now clean it up.”
After enduring the pain of the peroxide and taping a tight bandage around the finger, Paxton sat at the table.
Brandon ran outside for a moment and was now back with Paxton’s tools and wood. He sat across from Paxton at the table and began to show him again how to delicately and calmly shave the wood to get the desired shape and design. “See you can’t rush and you can’t force it. You must make controlled cuts to remove the wood in thin layers. Otherwise you risk tearing the wood, leaving ugly marks behind, or cutting yourself.”
Paxton stared at his shoes, embarrassed that he had let his impatience get the best of him. Earlier that week his dad had finally taught him how to whittle wood, and he was so excited to try it out. Brandon didn’t let Paxton do it alone just yet. He insisted that he needed the supervision to make sure he learned the proper techniques before he tried anything on his own. Of course, being the independent kid that he was, he chose to get up early that morning and try carving on his own. He wanted to surprise his dad with the progress he had made. “Sorry sir.”
Brandon continued carving. “And when you hit a knot like you have here, don’t try to cut it out. Knots are a beautiful part of the wood. Use it to your advantage. We must always find how to incorporate the undesirable.” Brandon handed Paxton the wood and knife. “You can’t expect to pick this skill up overnight or rush through it and expect to be good. Wood carving requires a lot of practice and patience. Good carving comes from experience and persistence, so don’t get discouraged if whittling doesn’t come to you as easily as you’d hoped. You have to persist. Just like anything in life worth doing, it takes practice, hard work and discipline. You hear me?”
Brandon smiled. “Good, now I want you to practice.”
“But my finger-“
“Your finger is fine,” Brandon reassure him. “Focus on the task at hand.”
Paxton nodded and returned to his whittling project. It was difficult to hold the wood with the giant gauze taped around his middle finger, but eventually he figured it out. For the next several hours, Paxton worked slowly and deliberately on his carving. A few times Brandon would stop him, give him a suggestion, and then continue watching. Before Paxton knew it, the piece of wood had turned into a small owl. He held the small piece of wood up to show his dad.
Brandon beamed with pride. “Now that’s a great looking piece of wood.”