They called him Skip #1: A reminescence in one part, about my first woodworking influence. (With addendum)

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Blog entry by Douglas Bordner posted 09-27-2007 10:38 AM 1683 reads 0 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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At the LA Coliseum grounds, circa 1942, prior to mustering out for North Africa with the 35th Infantry Division.

Blame it on Ken Burns. I just have caught snippets of “The War” being shown on PBS. The poignant glimpses into the individual lives of men and women caught up in WWII has sparked memories of my personal war hero and my first wood-working mentor, my Father, Clark Edmond Victor Bordner. Although we buried my Dad 23 years ago this coming October 3rd (in blue jeans and an old Banlon shirt with his favorite fishin’ pole), I have been flooded with a deep pain in my chest and a few sharp tears as I contemplate how much I wish he were here to see my woodworking projects.

Dad was an old man by the standards of the young men drafted into the service. He was a National Guardsman in the thirties (and for 41 years of service until retirement from the Guard), had participated in the U.S. Army War Games in 1939 in Louisiana. So although he was a Master Sergeant, and merely 24 when the war broke out, he was “Skipper” or just “Skip” to the enlisted men and shavetails that went to war in Africa and then France. He told me stories about personally ripping George Patton a new one for driving tanks over his field phone lines in Louisiana (as if!). But other than that embellished tale he didn’t have much to say about his war days. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties, living back at the family home after a bad patch, that we sat down together and traced his travels in the North African campaign through D-Day Plus 4 in Normandy and onward to Meinz, Germany on the maps of an American Heritage coffee table book on World War II.

And of course since he was my Father, I never thought about him being young once. And I could never have imagined him being in fear for his life, out in the country without cover for months at a go. Or about what it must have been like to have been raised Catholic and how “Thou shalt not kill” gets squared away with combat and survival when the chips are down. Despite the madness of war, I think he must have remained somewhat compassionate. One year we got a letter from Poland from a boy war refugee that Dad had befriended. “George” had grown to manhood and had his own family when he somehow managed to track Dad down by letter to thank him for helping him survive.

Now Pop wasn’t a very patient teacher (at least to his own flesh and blood). If I flubbed about at some task, he usually took the tool and finished the project himself. So on the woodworking front I am pretty much self-taught. By the time he had grown patient and I had become a receptive pupil we did not have many years to associate. But we did some collaborative projects (I designed, he built) in the twilight years of his life, and they are all cherished pieces that have traveled with me through two states and four homes. To this day I have his army surplus locker and standing tool cabinet (really an old map cabinet) in my shop. And I have chisels and planes that came down from his father. Of course “Skip” inadvertently taught me to swear like a soldier, which has a tendency to come in handy in the course of most of my projects…

One of you fellas here blogged about having an aged father that was disabled (Parkinson’s, I think) who felt that he was due an invitation to come over and help out in the woodshop. If your woodworking mentor is still around, I urge you to extend your hand in invitation. Maybe He feels “old and in the way” and too proud to come help unless invited. Once the book of his life is closed, you won’t get another opportunity to feast on his accumulated knowledge. And I guarantee that you will have wistful moments when you look for an atta-boy from the old gaffer, and on occasion will shed the odd tear.

To those few of you that have vast seniority on me and have stood in stead as my woodworking “Fathers” on these pages, I thank you for your wisdom and your patience. For the larger few of you I account as my “Uncles” in woodworking (including that cowboy Uncle – you know who you are) I thank you for putting up with my wise-ass palavering and dopey questions. The rest of you, well I thank you for putting up with me as well. I hope there is something amid my blather that is of use. And, Pop, wherever you are, I swear sometimes I can feel you smiling over my shoulder…

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

25 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4190 days

#1 posted 09-27-2007 11:55 AM

bless you.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3991 days

#2 posted 09-27-2007 01:27 PM

You can bet he’s watching, Doug. Thanks for a great tribute to a great guy. He, like so many others was “just doin’ his job”. I grew up with these men who fought the great war and they shaped my character. They will always be my heroes. You can keep your rock stars and football players. I prefer real men.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6859 posts in 4008 days

#3 posted 09-27-2007 01:41 PM

Hi Douglas;

A very moving, and loving memory shared with us fellow jocks. My father too, was in WWII, but never talked about it.

I was very fortunate in that he came to live with me, and work for / with me, prior to passing away.

What a pleasure it was for me to be in a position to “spoil him”. He did get a few extra benefits, being the bosses father. Like three hour work days, provided he visited a museum or something. (his passion)

How very strange it was to have our roles reversed, as I worked for him for a number of years. I can honestly say I was easier on him than he was on me! LOL

The older I become, the more I realize just how much of who I am was shaped by him.

I’ll suppose I’ll always miss him too, and I completely agree with Tom, regarding today’s “heros”, who catch a football, and feel the need to dance about it.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4247 days

#4 posted 09-27-2007 02:31 PM

Your dad sounds a lot like mine, Doug. Fortunately, I still have him around, but I know the time grows shorter every day. Thanks for reminding me to make the most of it while I still can.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 4065 days

#5 posted 09-27-2007 03:32 PM

Well…not many things can get me all musted up, Doug. A well written memory. Six of my uncles served in WWII, with one of them, Leo (my father’s mother’s youngest brother) giving his life to liberate others. You must be very proud of your father’s influence and I’m honored that you shared it with us.

Thanks, Doug!

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Hutch's profile


106 posts in 3926 days

#6 posted 09-27-2007 04:39 PM

Wonderful sentiment. Hits really close to home, only he was my grandpa (Pop).

View Karson's profile


35126 posts in 4429 days

#7 posted 09-27-2007 10:09 PM

Thanks Douglas. My father was never in the war. Well he said he was in for 2 days but left. I never asked him what that meant. He had brothers in the war and my mothers brothers and all came home but have all now since returned to the final home.

You memories of you father need to be passed on to your children and children’s children. So they might feel the personal bond that you feel.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Buckskin's profile


486 posts in 4017 days

#8 posted 09-27-2007 11:49 PM

Awesome testament to your father. I wish I had my Grandfather to help me know. He was an amazing craftsman. I think about him often in the shop and out. Thank you!

View WaywardHoosier's profile


80 posts in 4064 days

#9 posted 09-28-2007 12:16 AM


We share a similar background. My father has passed on many years ago, my father was a master sargeant in WWII, I have found memories of his “war” locker complete with uniforms, his Patton stories, training in Lousiana, his woodworking tools (my brother has them collecting dust and I’m the woodworker?), and more.

I don’t really discuss my Dad since most people my age really have no interest in the distant past (the years have gone by) ... It was nice to read your thoughts on your father.

-- WaywardHoosier - Behind schedule and over budget, but who's counting? Well of course she is!

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4206 days

#10 posted 09-28-2007 02:06 AM

Douglas, you are not alone. I wrote of my father here.

I think it’s so sad that many never tell their Dads how important they are. I trust your beautiful tribute to your Dad will spur others on to express their love to their fathers whilst they are still alive.

God bless.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4275 days

#11 posted 09-28-2007 03:45 AM

Doug, I had a similar experience with my father, Norman Fredrick Wurm Sr. He lost two brothers in the war and he himself joined at the tender age of 15 y/o because his circumstances of living on the streets in around Toledo Ohio, and Stubben were so bad. He got a letter from his dad and off he went. He got his feet wet on D-Day, so to speak and ended by getting wounded a couple years later at Remagen. He was also in the Bulge in a young battalion known as the 99th infantry, just a footnote in history because they were basically thrown in as young recruits to fill a hole in the line. They were wiped out. As I stated earlier he lost a brother in Italy and one in the Pacific and he never knew the particulars of their demise. My heart is filled and bruised along with yours as we think back about those times we did get them to open up about their friends they lost, and the heartache and horrible things they saw as young children themselves. I am amazed to this day he could have ever raised us 8 kids before going off his nut again and we lost him finally about 7 years ago to cancer. God Bless and Preserve them forever and ever. For they truly gave the ultimate sacrifice. even though they survived, with deep sorrow, mike God help me, I miss him, and his wrinckled old scared puss.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View David's profile


1969 posts in 4168 days

#12 posted 09-28-2007 06:20 AM

Doug -

Thank you for sharing this wonderful and very personal entry. Your concluding comments made me smile as I was thinking of my own father and the wonderful woodworking Lumberjocks community. We indeed have a large extended family with many mentors.


View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4024 posts in 4093 days

#13 posted 09-28-2007 08:38 AM

Thanks all for sharing your memories of your fathers and granddads. Mike’s memoir spawned another thought I’d like to share. We forget that our country was still struggling to rise out of the hard-scrabble of the depression when the war broke out. The draft boards of the time had to reject quite a few boys who had suffered poor nutrition – bad teeth, weak bones due to a decade of substandard nutrition and living conditions.

One of my favorites of my father’s stories of his youth involved his memories of his father and family as they made do in the depression. His father would clear farm properties of lumber (I’m not sure what the arrangements were exactly – whether he paid for the “logging rights” or whether the wood was compensation for clearing the land). They would pile up the cordwood into an open horse-drawn wagon for transport back home. Grandfather Bordner (Willis) would set in the wagon seat driving the horses at a slow pace. He had his break-action double Damascus barreled shotgun at the ready (I still have that wonderful old tool as well). When they would scare up rabbits on the drive, Grandfather would snap-shot the game as the team continued to pull the wagon. Dad would jump down and retrieve the carcass, run to catch up and throw the rabbit into the wagon as they continued home. Meat for the stewpot, wood for the stove and maybe enough to sell for a few cents to the neighbors.

My Dad spent summers at his step-mother’s sister’s (Aunt Lucy Garrety) farm in Reading, Lyon County, Kansas (45 miles or so down the road from Mark DeCou’s). In summer, my folks would take all of us fishing there, and Dad and I hunted there for quail, rabbits and squirrel in the winter. I have a shocked memory of my Dad field-dressing my first rabbit bare-handed by Lucy’s turnip patch in the frost of early November (Stretch the belly skin taut, poke a finger into the gut cavity, rip open the abdomen, grab the bunny by the hind legs and flip it overhead to send the entrails out on the ground, step on the head with your boot and pull it off). Then it was quick work to “Turn Mr. Rabbit out of his jacket” and into the game pocket of the old brown duck hunting coat, all within about a minute’s time. I still remember how sweet the frost-nipped turnips were, after polishing the dirt off with a coat-sleeve, and the agreeable extra warmth gleaned as the rabbit cooled in the gutta-percha lined back pocket in the tail of that coat.

I know Alan Greenspan thinks it okay that our nation has turned from a manufacturing country into a service-industry based economy. I’m not so sure that being a nation of consumers has quite the same character building quality that comes from having a citizenry that built railroads, forged steel and welded together the infrastructure that now is eroding with time. We don’t get our hands dirty, we have sanitizing wipes at the ready. Our kids don’t eat a pound of dirt by the time they are five. Our immune systems grow bored so that there is an alarming rise in food allergies and auto-immune disorders. Children don’t make up games (I recall playing surgeon with the crab-apples in the backyard with an old Remington hunting knife – perish the thought that an eight year old would be left alone with a knife). Give the choice between mumbly-peg and Mortal Kombat®, I think I would pick the later as the dangerous activity. I don’t think there will be any lasting memories of the first Happy Meal™ your Dad bought you. It is a sadness that “the greatest generation” is fading into memory.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 3963 days

#14 posted 09-28-2007 09:36 AM

Doug, thank you for your candor and generosity in sharing these stories of your father. It’s a great reminder to me to cherish my own while he’s still around. It’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind, and miss out on what’s really important. Keep up the musing, it’s contagious.

-- Robb

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4024 posts in 4093 days

#15 posted 09-28-2007 11:26 PM

I sent this link to my sister, and she passed it along to my nephew. Looks like I am the family historian on martial matters. And there will be someone interested in receiving a shadow box with Dad’s interment flag and medals when I shuffle off this mortal coil. Good, healing stuff.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

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