May 21 • 04:03 AM

Rutted path, classified leads to very helpful encounter

July 09, 2008
'Two Men and a Baby.' 'Two Men and a Truck.' Two L's and a Chainsaw...'

I'm trying to come up with a catchy lead for a column I want to write about a person I'm getting to know. Like the above-cited movie and moving company, this man has accomplished the remarkable with very little—conquered the impossible with simplicity; slayed the dragon with a, well, chainsaw. And the only "Two whatever and a what" I can come up with is the two L's in his name. He's a two-L'ed Willson, as he says. I first learn this a few years ago when I write him a check.

The reason I write him a check is because he delivers a load of wood to my house. I need the wood because my snazzy fairly new furnace—you know, one of those modern ones with computer chips and mother boards and all—wasn't working. The company I call upon to fix it quotes me a rather substantial price (the mother board was fried) and say they'll order it and fix the problem. That was September. In November I'm writing the two L'ed Willson a check because furnace company X never calls or comes through on the promise and the house is getting pretty chilly. I used up all the wood in my stockpile and, silly me, I kind of like to be warm in the winter.

So I look in the classified ads in these pages and find Willson's. A load of wood delivered for $45. Now the irony of living in the woods and having to buy wood is not lost on yours truly. I realize the great tragedy of this every single day. But I also realize and readily admit my lack of expertise—not to mention confidence—with big powerful pieces of equipment like chainsaws and axes. I have a chainsaw. Even attempted to learn to use it when Rod oh-so-patiently tried to teach me. Safety glasses. Proper footing. Firm grip. How not to get the blade pinched. How to pull the trigger, rev the engine and allegedly cut through logs like butter. Right.

While I did do it, I was not comfortable in the least with it. Frankly, it intimidates me. And while I may not get an A in lumberjack class, I'm no flunky when it comes to knowing my capabilities regarding equipment that could greatly alter my extremities. So I call the number in the ad and Willson shows up.

Eventually I call another furnace company which fixes the problem in about three days at about half the cost quoted by company X. So it was meant to be—and now I know why. Because of the two-L'ed Willson.

A year or so later I get another load of wood from Willson. He takes a look around my place and makes a brilliant observation.

"You have a lot of wood around here," he says. "I'm not trying to tell you what to do but maybe I could come over with my saw and clean some of this up for you."

In the short time we'd known each other, he learned that money is an object—just like it is with many people he and I know. He says he won't charge much per hour, and he keeps his word. He comes over and works for several hours and I get lots and lots of wood.

He says he likes to cut wood. He likes working outdoors. I learn that he's a two L'ed Willson because that's his mother's maiden name. He tracks time around the death of his mom, I learn, who came to live with Willson until she passed away.

I learn he's a Vietnam veteran and that we know many of the same people. I learn he's a retired health inspector with the Macomb County Health Department; that he and his wife live simply; that they have a son and a granddaughter whom they enjoy and help out. Willson also grew and sold produce, and tells me he has a 'small' garden these days (it's half the size of a football field).

I learn that Willson is a gentle man and a gentleman. I learn that he likes a challenge. Otherwise, why would he even offer to tackle the gargantuan maple tree that blew over during the early June storms? I thought for sure he'd tell me 'I'm afraid you'll have to get a crew in here,' cause that's what I and everyone else who looked at it thought.

But Willson takes one look and says, "Yep. I think I can take care of that for you." He says it'll be a challenge.

Obviously he's up to it, as you can see from the photo.

Once again I'm amazed at the path that has led me to this moment, even though it's been rutted with mishaps and problemsit. Had the furnace not broken down I'd have never met Willson, two Ls and all.

Email Catherine at

Castle Creek
Milnes Ford
05 - 21 - 19
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