CR 12: Tallassee Man Makes Walking Sticks

Larry McCleod is a marine.  He fought in Vietnam and made it home alive.  He's thankful for that every day, and he shows his thanks by giving back.

When you walk through the woods and look up, what do you see?   Most of us will notice the leaves or the branches, but Mr. McCleod sees a work of art in the making.   "I look for a handle, something they can hold onto," McCleod said.   He makes walking sticks for war veterans.  He makes them by hand, and he makes them for free.   He finds most of the branches in a variety of trees in the woods behind his home.  "You know how I find my best ones?  I just kind of walk up on them."

Once he picks out the right branch, the real work begins.   McCleod uses a knife to strip the bark.  Then he uses old pieces of glass to smooth out the stick.  Finally he will sand it over and over until it's just right.   The last step, he paints on 4 coats of polyurethane.  It's tedious work, every step done by hand.  But he takes a lot of pride in making sure fellow service members have something to be proud of.   "I was an M60 machine gunner in 1967 and 1968 and I'm proud to be here.  These guys can have regular walking sticks, but when I make it for them it gives them something to talk about and something to be proud of.   It's a lot more than a stick to me, it's something that needs to be done right."

So he whittles and sands until he gets it just right.   Another walking stick will soon be done for another person who risked their life for our country.   Mr. McCleod knows he could make money off his works of art, but for now he says, he just does it to say thanks to the people who fought for our country and made it home safe, just like him.

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