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  • Writer's pictureBetty Girardeau

Family Connections

Usually we think of dogwoods being white or pink. But one of my neighbors has this beauty in their yard and I just had to grab a picture of it on one of my evening walks. Last year I replaced the crape myrtles in my front yard with pink dogwoods. But had I known about these vibrant red ones, I would surely have bought them instead. No matter the color, I am especially fond of this tree because my Mother's Father's company produced shuttles for the weaving industry. As a child the blocks that I played with were leftover pieces of wood from the factory. And when my Grandparents built their mountain dream home the parquet floor in their entry hall was made from this wood as well. My Grandfather traveled all over the southeast selecting trees to buy for the factory. I did not think too much about it as a child, but for commercial purposes, dogwood lumber is pretty rare. Unlike other trees, dogwood trunks are pretty small in circumference and are rarely harvested except by the person who is going to be using it. So if you are running a business that only uses dogwood, you don't just call up your local lumber company and submit an order. I own a couple of the shuttles made in my Grandfather's factory. They are pretty impressive. Metal tipped and carved out of a single piece of wood, they are hollowed out to hold the yarn and there is a metal clip of some sort at one end that must be how the yarn is held in place. At the other end is something like a little brush close to where the single piece of thread would be pulled as the fabric is woven. It's design is both simple and ingenious. Dogwood is very dense, making it perfect for small items that are going to get a lot of wear and tear. Driving through the south in the spring when the dogwoods are in bloom it is a thrill to see how many of these trees there are. But most of these would be deemed too small to harvest for a business like my Grandfather's. How many hours did he have to spend on the road finding enough of just the right trees? In 1933, along with his brother and brothers-in-law, who had likely helped fund the development, my Grandfather was granted a patent for his automatically threading loom shuttle. So, while I love the beauty of these trees, they mean so much more to me personally. It's interesting how something like a particular species of tree can have a greater personal meaning. (If you are interested in seeing what a flying shuttle looks like and how it works, check out this link.

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