When spring came, he was offered a job as the waterfront director and chief lifeguard. The job entailed living in a small, one room cabin on the beach, nicknamed “The Honeymooner” by the staff. Jack thought this would be ideal, as his faith had really grown during the year. He still doubted many things about organized religion, but was now convinced that God was around somewhere. Jack felt the closest he had come to meeting God had been on the trip to Pipestone.
Over the summer, he had lots of time to ponder things, and he decided that perhaps he should carve a pipe from a piece of the stone. He didn’t smoke, but he thought that maybe it would look good as a decoration. In these days before the internet, he had only his memories of pictures in books to go from, and spent many days thinking about what sort of pipe he would carve. The artists in his family – his dad and aunt – had always said that the key to carving was to just take away what didn’t belong. He finally decided to try to carve a killer whale, as that had always been his favorite animal. Using only hand tools, he made the initial cuts into the stone. Then using files, he ground away what he thought didn’t belong. As he worked, he thought about God. What it would take as proof of God? Would he ever know what it was that God wanted him to do with his life? Lots of people, especially at camp, talked about how they had felt called by God to do this or that, to get a job doing such and such. Jack had never felt called by God to do anything. He wondered if he ever would. He carved and chipped away at the pipestone with the realization that this could take all summer to complete. But he had time.
He was working on one of the pectoral fins, or flippers, one day and thinking that perhaps he didn’t need proof of God, just some proof of what God wanted him to do with his life. Jack’s middle name was Thomas, and like his biblical namesake, Jack had to see real, physical, nearly overwhelming proof of something to believe in it.
“Maybe,” he thought “God wants me to…”
But that was as far as he got. The pectoral fin popped away from the piece with a “snikt”, and Jack sat dumbfounded at what had just happened. His first attempt at a pipe was ruined. It would never look like a killer whale now. He got angry and considered throwing the whole thing into the lake, was seconds from doing so in fact. But he remembered that some of the pipes he had seen were just plain. Maybe he could just make this one into a plain pipe for practice. So he sat on the porch of the Honeymooner, filing away at the piece now and then for days, not giving it much thought.
One day as he carved, he watched a Red-Tailed Hawk circling above the shoreline. Jack smiled at the peacefulness that his accommodations provided him. He looked down at the pipe in his hands, and noticed that the front of it sort of resembled the hawk’s head. With a little more filing and some scratching with the other end of the file, he soon had a rough hawk head on his pipe. Maybe this pipe will be something after all, he thought.
He decided to drill the holes in the pipe before he did too much detail work. After all, if it broke apart during drilling, he didn’t want hundreds more hours invested in it. So he used a hand drill and a vise to do the drilling. Since he had never smoked a pipe, or anything else in his life, he made a guess as to the hole sizes. He used a ¼” bit for the hole where the stem would fit in. That drilling went well. Then he drilled down into the bowl with the ¼” bit until it was almost level with the top of the hawk head. He switched to a 1/16th inch bit to connect the bowl to the stem hole. He drilled carefully, but at about a half inch in, the bit broke off in the stone. He grabbed another 1/16th bit and drilled a second hole right next to it, being even more careful. This time he met with success, and connected the two holes.
He set aside the half-finished pipe, and on one of his days off, went walking along the roadway near camp where hundreds of Sumac trees grew. The leaves had already turned red for the autumn, and Jack didn’t know exactly what he was looking for. In the books he had read, they spoke of using Sumac for stems. Finding a piece about 16-18” long that was straight, then burning the middle out with hot wire. Jack found a relatively straight piece and thanked the tree for letting him take it. When he got it back to the Honeymooner, he stripped the bark off and carved a narrow piece that fit into the pipe. Then he wondered how on earth he was going to hollow it out. He got a wire hanger and cut it into a long, straight rod. Then he lit a candle and held the wire over the flame until it was glowing hot. With a quick prayer for success, he pressed the hot end into the center of the stem. Smoke curled up from the wood as it sunk into the wood. Jack felt resistance, and after about an inch he withdrew the wire to reheat it. When he plunged it in the second time, it went about an eighth of an inch before it popped through into open space. Jack was surprised, then amazed as he pushed the wire through the hollow area until it was about an inch from the other side. He flipped the stem, reheated the wire and in no time had a hollow stem that fit quite well into the pipe.
He worked on the pipe from time to time, not knowing that it would not be finished for another two decades.