I was a bit wary calling Max on the phone, thinking that perhaps he’d had enough of people dropping by to make his picture and wondering what kind of reception I’d receive. Max was as kind as you might imagine a southern gentleman to be. He asked where I came from and we quickly made a connection to someone in my hometown for whom he’d made a chair. It was something that’s common in southern culture, to find your connection to people before you carry on. When he found out I was with Outward Bound he said, “We have a group coming from there tomorrow and they’re going to stay at my cabin, you should come and stay out there with us.”
I’d heard about Max Woody from some friends at Outward Bound who said that groups used to stop by his shop frequently and even stayed at his cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Not long after that I’d entered the Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition and there was a photo of Max in his wood shop. I was determined that I’d meet him and make some photos of my own.
When I dropped by that afternoon Max warmly welcomed me and before long we were down in his wood shop where he has been crafting chairs for the past 62 years, since he was a teenager. He told me the story of how he saved the money during those early years to buy his own tools. He is a 6th generation craftsman, having learned from his grandfather after his father passed when he was only 15. Max talked about life in between using his chisel to hone pieces of wood and later told the Outward Bound group that dropped by to visit, “Do what you love to do and don’t worry about the money, if you’re happy at your craft your life will be the richer for it.” That evening we took off to Max’s cabin deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Spruce Pine, North Carolina. He first checked the road to make sure that the previous week’s rain hadn’t made it impassable and then we wound our way across ridge lines and then deep down into the Carolina woodlands which were coming to bloom with redbuds and dogwoods.
There sat Max’s cabin, a home that has been in his family for several generations, a cabin he most generously shares with friends. The cabin is still free from such modern burdens as electricity, which allowed us to soak in that evening’s pastel sky. With it came a sliver moon which lit up the rest of the orb, soon followed by Orion, its light bending through high branches.
It was indeed good to meet Max Woody and to experience the kindness and hospitality that is renowned in these deep hollows…