Every few weeks, my ship comes in.
She's a streamlined International 4000 Diesel. The morning northeast sun reflects off her glassy white hood. She bares her share of scars from a life on the road; duct tape locks the side view mirrors in place, and her chrome grill is stippled in taupe silhouettes of former insects from Palatka to Yaphank. But she's beautiful nonetheless.
Her 25-foot flatbed bears the fruits of our labor. Stacked high and true... the remnants of structures long forgotten. We've harnessed some of those ghosts, and along the way, straight-lined, thickness-planed and kiln dried them. But make no mistake... their spirit remains in tact.
The same board that was once a slat in the sheathing of a dairy barn in Elizabethtown, Tennessee, now cradles an icy Martini, as a piece in one of the newest bars in Montauk, New York. It is that process... the understanding and appreciation that architecture can indeed be reincarnated... which keeps my ship coming in.
Her captain is a pirate. The grizzled, one-eyed man steps from the helm and greets me with our customary hand shake that pulls into a hug. He is my business partner, and one of my closest friends. He lights a cigarette, and steps back as I inspect the bounty. The Sinker Cypress in pungent... its grain pattern tight and immaculate. I run my fingers across the live-edge of Antique Hemlock barn board, careful not to allow a 19th-century splinter to take residence in my hand. As always, the hand-hewn Oak beams anchor the load. Silver and gnarled. Virtually petrified. They have the dignity and presence of dinosaur bones.
By the day's end, the bones will be stripped from the flatbed chariot and delivered to their respective new structures, where this once humble lumber that perhaps held the pitch dark burden of serving as a floor joist for 150 years will now be on display. Not to carry the burden of a load, but instead to respected and admired. It has earned it.
Meanwhile, the pirate and his ship will enjoy no such fate... not yet at least. Together they slip from the South Fork under the cloak of night and steam towards the Smokey Mountains. There are ghosts down there... and there is work to be done.