Saturday, March 21, 2015


Havlon Bright always smells of Ivory Snow clothes and carries the faintest incense of cedar and pine and oak around with him like a pale, nebulous aura, for his days are spent amongst wood.   He always looks as if he’s just emerged from a pile of curly shavings, with bits of sawdust and little shining spirals of planed wood clinging to his clothes, and peeping  from the upturned cuffs of his jeans.   The sparkle of sanding dust sometimes hazes the golden hairs of his muscular forearms, and the glint gives a brassy gleam like a bronze statue.

Those callused hands give a powerful handshake, and you can feel the work of years in their hard surface; the two little fingers, though never broken, have a slight bend which has firmed over the years into an immovable curve, so that he always looks as if he’s raising his pinky-fingers over a dainty teacup.

He wears khakis year-round, varying only sleeve-length, and in the short time of the seasons’ changes, sometimes shows the long sleeves of thermals, pushed up to his elbows like pale bellows beneath the short sleeves of his button-shirts.   He would like to be a suspender-man like his Daddy, but somehow a plank or a tool or an edge of a counter seems to catch or snap into the elastic, and so he wears rather wide belts.    His favorite is the nice tooled-leather one his daughter had made by an inmate in Parchman, with his initials on the back, and a hammer on one side and a slender saw on the other.

Havlon just KNOWS wood---he can walk into Laster’s Lumberyard, and aim his nose at the pine or maple, knowing almost exactly the place of its growing and the time in the cure, and can be trusted to choose and carve and carpenter anything from a gun cabinet to a whole library of shelves, to a complete kitchen, copied from a magazine and set down entire in what used to be Miss Carlisle Emerson’s bumped-out garage. 

He’s known best for the beautiful hutches he builds right into people’s dining rooms, any size, any space, with shelves and drawers and carving satin-smooth as fine furniture, and always signs his work on the back, even if it means just writing his name on a board he’s about to nail on a wall. 

When you Hire Havlon, you just tell him what you want, and come back to find it---he’s been a part of the town’s carpentry family all his life, and his inherited touch for woodworking is equaled by the Bright Voice---a pure clear tenor, ringing out from the Methodist choir in perfect harmony with his alto twin sister, Olivia Dee.   

They’ve been singing together since they were small, and though Havlon’s size and physique suggests Basso Profundo, he pours out those silvery notes as effortlessly as he thumbs a planed edge.   Scarce a single person in town has been buried in the past fifteen years, but that Havlon and Olivia Dee stood at graveside at the end, beginning “Amazing Grace” in perfect pitch, and all the assemblage joining in, soaring those smooth notes heavenward in escort with the Dear Departed.

 Only once, when Olivia Dee was still in the hospital after the birth of her second child, did Havlon do the honors alone, and then it was the funeral of old Mr. Killebrew, who had served in WW II.   The song was “Danny Boy,” and that’s pretty much best as a solo, anyway.

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