Turning wood pallet strips into beautiful furniture is a talent for Gene Brewster.
His dad was a carpenter who worked in construction, but it was in junior high school shop class that Brewster found his love of woodworking and metal working. He did a few jobs with his dad.
“We remodeled People’s Bank year ago, and Power House in Gentry, Arkansas and Gravette Hospital,” he said.
He still has the wooden toolbox his dad built in 1954.
“It’s the only one he ever used. It’s not fancy, but it served its purpose,” Brewster said.
His dad mowed when he retired. It's something Brewster did and still does for the Westville Methodist Church, for 30 years – and his dad did it first. And except for a short time when he was single and lived in an apartment, he’s had a shop.
November marks the 51st anniversary of Ann and Gene. They moved to Westville in 1972, and in 1975, he built the four-bedroom home with a large master upstairs, where they still live.
Today, he enjoys building tables, signs, American flags and other decorative items º including a bachelor chair, which is a step stool, an ironing board and chair. He built many rocking horses, and his grandkids still use them.
“A friend posted a picture of her grandson riding the one I built for her son. It’s still going strong,” he said.
That friend is Robin Hall, a former school teacher whose husband, Norman, coached basketball.
He’s thinking about bringing back a few popular projects, such as teachers' signs with their names, and marriage signs with a house, the last name and year married.
“We don’t dial 911” signs were really popular, but he hasn’t built them in about 15 years.
Pallet wood is a challenge to build with because of all the angles, he said.
“I enjoy doing it. I couldn’t make a living at it if you count all the man hours. But I gather up pallets and buy when I can find any. I find them at the feed store and where they do food distribution sometimes,” said Brewster.
Pallets can be made from poplar, oak, mahogany, and pine.
Brewster used to love cutting wood, cutting down trees and splitting the wood.
"The first 15 years we lived here, we only burned wood I cut. Who knows how many ricks,” he said.
Some days, he’d go out at daylight to cut wood and not come back until dark.
“Sometimes I would just sit on a log, looking at nature,” he said.
His love for wood cutting was so great that his wife told him something poignant.
“My wife says when I die and go to heaven, there will be a red oak so tall there wouldn’t be a limb for 30 feet, and I’ll spend my days cutting wood and to ship to the devil,” he said with a chuckle.
Ann helps paint now that she’s retired.
“I like her coming to the shop; I like being with her and it gives me somebody to talk to besides the dog,” he said.
Some guys like going off hunting and some girls like shopping, he said.
“We like each other and spending time together,” said Brewster.
A good thing about getting older is all the good memories of life, he said.
“I can still do about everything I used to do; it just takes me longer," he said.