Snow has already come to Flag Pond, Tennessee, this year, and John has been working hard to get our new house under roof by winter. Right now, during our one-year anniversary week, he is in the process of integrating the old and new structures, as the new house is basically a larger two-story addition onto the existing cabin he built six years ago.
Bo says his style reflects the way you would build a barn instead of the way typical houses are built today. For instance, the framing wood is 2X6, not 2X4, and he cut and nailed the frame together “by hand,” (not with a pneumatic hammer), using 6-inch ring-shank pole-barn nails, which are hard to come by these days. His neighbor brought over a small crane and helped John to set up the structure after he had built it by himself in pieces.
John is always arriving in Asheville with the casual scrapes and bruises that accompany total immersion in a building project. He says you can’t get anything done in the physical world if you are preoccupied with the possibility of getting hurt. Evidently, he’s always had this philosophy.
I asked him recently to tell me a little about how he learned to do what he does. Being the youngest of five, John said the older siblings would take off and kind of “ditch” him. So he’d end up at some neighbor’s place watching and helping with a project of some sort, and that’s how a lot of his “making” and “building” skills got started.
His oldest brother, Art, recently shared the family picture below, which is precious to John, as all the photographs he had of his family burned in a fire in Arkansas. Art shared these reflections about John:
“As we know, in grammar school, it’s not cool to hang out with even the kids one grade below you. In the family photo below, I was about 19 or 20 years old, John about 9 or 10 (we’re 10 years apart). I was off to college when John was 9 years old. My younger brother [by one year], Al, got a gymnastics scholarship to Michigan State. John liked the gymnastics Al did, tried anything; we joked he was like a chimp.
John is at bottom left, behind him Al, then Mary, his dad and mom, and Art standing behind Eddie.
“From that, some of his nicknames: Johnny Bump (always some kind of bump somewhere from trying some acrobatic move), shortened to Bump, or Bumpus, or J.Fred Bump, a takeoff on the chimp that was on the Today show, J.Fred Muggs. He was always into nature, catching frogs, snakes, etc., as much as you could be in Houston, but that bloomed when he went to college, forestry school in east Texas.
“I told John some stories about my trekking in Nepal. I took four month-long trips to Nepal in ’73 & ’74, and hiked in the Himalayas, never high enough to be on snow or glaciers, not over 11,000 feet in altitude, but to a week’s walking from the nearest road. I also told him how in India and Nepal, they’d say to me: “Oh, you’re from USA! Mighty rivers, huge tall trees,” which made me think that to “be in the wilderness,” you didn’t have to go halfway around the world; there are plenty of spectacular natural beauty spots here. Maybe as a result of those conversations, I haven’t ever heard John talk about wanting to explore outside of the US.”
Thanks, Art, and thank you, Bodacious!
More photos of the house below, and more to come soon. ~frances