Tuesday, after the wind blew the roofing material off one side of my shop five minutes before I had to head into the city to my night run, my peace was threatened. It wasn’t supposed to rain but nevertheless it was hard to focus on the task of performing my trucking duties that night, and when the rain came as I was 150 miles away from home, my anxiety grew, knowing that it was probably raining in my town as well. And it was.
To keep my mind occupied I researched my limited knowledge of, and experience with exotic wood, and listened to talk radio. I’ve travelled from one end of this country and back, never turning the radio on, being a thinker. Howerver, this little disaster was hard not to be occupied with.
A funny “exotic wood story” popped into my mind as I was driving, causing me to chuckle.
Back in my furniture moving days I handled a lot of overseas moves to and from this continent. Usually the customers were state department employees posted around the world, having furniture stored in our warehouse, shipping neccessary items across the world in crates. When they would return to this country we would take their furniture out of storage and deliver it with the incoming crates of household effects.
In many situations the crates from overseas were made of local wood, some very exotic and interesting species. We would also find intersesting creatures that had found their way into the sawn lumber boxes. On one occassion one of our drivers discovered a dead cobra, and I also heard of a mongoose found in a shipment. Bugs were bad in those days before the heat treating regulations became global.
One day as I was preparing to deliver a customer’s storage shipment, I was informed by dispatch that he had called and was very adamant about his overseas crate, that it not be dismantled, but delivered intact. It was standard policy not to open the crates until the customer was present so we took it as a normal concern that he didn’t want anyone looking through his stuff privately.
I assume he made quite a few calls requesting that the runners on the crate not be taken off which was unusual as we didn’t have any interest in such a task, removing 4 inch x 6 or 7 inch pieces of rough lumber 6 or 7 feet long. No thanks. We would usually empty the crate after wresting the tin roof up enough to get the door panel off, and return the empty box to the overseas crating shop to reuse if it was good enough. Otherwise they were dismantled and discarded or given to employees to take home for storage sheds or firewood.
As I was departing the terminal with the storage shipment one of the overseas office staff came running out to dispatch and told us not to deliver the overseas crates as the feds were coming to inspect. At first I took it that customs officers were coming which was routine. They would inspect on site or at the warehouse, a random but normal occurence. But, this time it was the feds.
I dont know how they got involved but I suspect that the customer, being one avid and knowledgeable woodworker, knew the value of the wood that the crate was made of in terms of future woodworking projects and just wanted to preserve his find. From memory I think that it might have been rosewood. In requesting the various agencies to take good care of his free exotic wood, some flags were raised and the feds called.
The office girl said that the national police agency was coming to see if the crate runners had been hollowed out, and they did come, and hacked the runners apart, to no avail.
No funny business to be had, only sawdust and woodchips.
My last view of the crate was in the side mirrors of my transport as I departed the warehouse. Several officers were up on the hill where the crate had been placed on the asphalt parking lot to access all sides. I’m sure they weren’t happy having to get down and dirty in the hot sun, chopping up a old crate to them, but a gem to the customer.
I’m glad I didn’t have to deliver the busted up box and watch our woodworking friend’s disappointment. I hope he was able to make something nice out of what was left.
-- Phil Brown, Ontario