The Alluring Mystique of Ohio Woodcarving Museums - My Family Travels

I let my forehead hit the window of our family’s giant blue Suburban. I could not believe that we had sunk so low as to visit a wood-carving museum. I had gotten used to Ohio, but a woodcarving museum in Ohio was a whole new level of lameness.

Growing up in the wealthy college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, I had been surrounded by kids who went to cool places on their family vacations. Disney World, Hawaii, Switzerland, Japan, you name it. My family, on the other hand, had never been to Disney World. We had never been to anywhere that anyone cared about. Whenever we took off together, we had one destination in mind and one destination only:  the magical, adventurous, awe-inspiring, practical, affordable wonderland that was Ohio.

It had all begun when my mother came home from a used book sale carrying an astonishingly long volume about the many exciting travel opportunities Ohio had to offer. The title of the book was “Ohio: Off the Beaten Path.” With this handy directory of museums, campgrounds, and large taxidermied animals, our family no longer had to go ride the coin-operated pony at Meijer for fun. A whole new world of glass-encased dead things, historically significant fields of grass, and really big rocks had been opened to us, and that world was Ohio. So it was that a slew of expeditions began. Whenever school was out and the rest of my friends were having bragging sessions about Ireland and Israel, I remained silent in fear of serious taunting because everybody knew where my family was off to… again.

And so it was that I had found myself here in the Suburban, pulling up to a small, house-like building in the Canton area as my father’s bluegrass blared from the stereo.

For some strange reason that no one in my family can put a finger on, the museums that we visited were almost always empty. This woodcarving museum was no exception. We were greeted at the front desk by an eager woman with poofy blonde hair. She looked at us in a hungry, unsettling manner typical of a volunteer at a rarely frequented museum in Ohio.

The woman led us past a gallery of model trains into a hallway of wooden pliers. There were wooden pliers of evey size, every kind of wood, and every shape provided that said shape was that of a set of pliers. Apparently the man who had inspired this museum had been an avid carver of wooden pliers and could make a pair out of a single piece of wood. He had even recieved a vision from God that had shown him a tree made of interlocking pliers, which he had realized in a feat of mathematical genius and divine revelation. As I examined the elaborate, delicate structure, I actually forgot to be jealous of my friends who were currently riding gondolas through the canals of Venice.

In the car on the way back to our motel, I contemplated this hand I had been dealt in the game of life: this single-suited hand of Ohio vacations. Smiling contentedly, I concluded that it was a decidedly good hand. Through my life of Ohio adventures, I had learned to appreciate the small triumphs achieved by the woodcarvers and wax museum proprietors and taxidermists of the world. It didn’t take Cinderella’s castle or hula dancers or Russian fireworks to keep me entertained, and that was a good thing. My family didn’t need to bushwack our way into some exotic country; we found our roads less traveled by in Ohio. It didn’t make us lame. It was just how we were.


Lynette Score, Ann Arbor, Michigan won Honorable Mention for this essay.

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