February 6, 2007
Decatur Co. -- The love month started today, a time to show affection. But, you might say a Decatur County man roughs up an enduring love that started half-way around the world, more than half a century ago.
Sometimes it seems life intends for a person to go one way only for him to take a different route, and in the meantime find the love of his life. "I was raised to be a carpenter," says Roy Dahl, as he puts on his handmade visor.
It would make sense. His father was one, but something abruptly changed Roy's life. "I loved it from the first time I picked up a piece of leather," says Roy as he wipes a piece of leather with a yellow sponge, with what looks like a water-detergent solution. "I've been doing it for 56 years," says Roy proudly as he lifts out silver looking tool from a cloth pouch and picks up a mallet.
Working with leather puts Roy in a time warp. "You just lose all track of time when you're doing something you like to do," says Roy. Recently, he worked 13 hours straight, "Forgot to eat lunch," says Roy, and didn't realize how much time had passed until almost midnight when he got something to eat.
Roy's love affair with leather started when he was a soldier stationed in Germany. One day he walked past a leather shop and saw a craftsman at work, and decided, at that moment, he wanted to learn the craft.
But why leather? Why not plastic or wood? "I can see what I'm doing, actually, before I do it," says Roy who traces a design on paper, and then uses it as a guide to reproduce it in a piece of leather.
What he's doing requires patience to get all the details just right. "When I was young, I had no patience," says Roy, but he has more than his share now. Leatherwork taught him respect. "You don't have to be forceful," says Roy who knows just how hard to strike the tools.
He gently works like a surgeon. Some of his creations take 80 hours to complete; with little tools so specialized that it's hard to tell one from another. "I have 300 to 400, maybe more. Some tools you don't see."
While most people would hear his gentle pounding on the tools, Roy hears something else. "I'm hearing music, more like a base fiddle," says Roy, who plays a fiddle occasionally.
The rhythm needs a melody and he starts whistling the "The Yellow Rose of Texas." Every verse. You could call it his theme song because he often creates flowers.
Occasionally, Roy whistles a John Phillip Sousa march while keeping time with the hammer. "Some people call it a hobby. Some people call it a profession. I call it love," says Roy.
An enduring love of more than a half-century, a love you can't beat. Roy makes business card holders, personal appointment book covers, along with glasses cases and legal pad covers.