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Southern Rodmakers Gathering

Not so long ago making bamboo rods was considered almost black magic, a secret art. Today there are a handful of professional rod makers scattered around the globe as well as literally hundreds of small "boutique industry" rod makers. Without question, the best rods ever made are often often put together in today's garage workshops from Pennsylvania to California, Australlia to Alaska.

While surfing the internet several years ago I came across a list server for makers of bamboo rods, http://www.canerod.com/rodmakers/index.html . I joined the list and have been an active participant for several years. The Rodmakers List today has about 600 participants around the world.

Most of today's rod makers are more than willing to share their wisdom and experience with each other. In 1997, I saw several of my Rodmakers List friends discussing one of the "get-togethers" held each year. When I asked why there were no Gatherings held in the Southern United States, someone suggested that I start one myself. About eighteen months later, I did.

In October 1998, about 30 or 40 of us met on the NorthFork River outside Mountain Home, Arkansas. Wayne Cattanach held a two-day "Beginners Workshop." Wayne's presence added a note of legitimacy to our new group.

When we met in October 2000, our little band of friends was nearly 80 strong. We rent Fulton's Lodge on the White River, and discuss rod making, laugh, tell tall tales, and let our hair down. In 2000 I taught the Beginner's Workshop, and we had 27 people in attendance. We even made a video!

Sometimes I express myself better on paper than in person. Following our 1999 SRG (Southern Rodmakers Gathering) I shared these thoughts with those in attendance:

Southern Tears Who is the fellow who makes bamboo rods?

Who is the fellow who makes bamboo rods? The stereotype portrays him (or her) as a lone wolf. He hibernates in his shop for hours at a time. Strange sounds and smells eminate from within. Passers by startle at the crack of popping nodes and shrieks of pain from "the mother of all paper cuts". Bamboo roasting with the delicacy of almonds mingles in ones mind with the caustic fumes of high tech glues and solvents and noxious ammonia fumes. Crumpled graph paper with scribbled points and figures and computer printouts accumulate in the trash shoved outside the shop to make room for planing "just one more strip." Smoke from an old burned out pipe circles his head constantly as he ruminates over how to solve a problem or work out the latest challenge.

Who is the fellow who makes bamboo rods? Usually the rodmaker is tall like Bob N. or Bill L. -- or, short like me. Often he is wiry and thin like Rick C. or Miles T. -- or pudgy like me. He is barrel-chested like Ken C.. or Kurt L -- or weak like me. He is clean cut like Jerry B. or Alan G.-- or scruffy looking like me. He is quiet like Henry and Onis, or a loudmouth like me. He's got a full head of hair, like Joe -- or he is bald, like me. His work is artful, his creativity amazing, like Al M. -- or bumbling like mine. He is intelligent and intense, focused and filled with energy, like Wayne, -- or lazy, like _______. He's IBM like Dan, or Apple like Ron. He makes his own beer like Mike, -- or doesn't drink at all, like me. ;-) He's from "South of Interstate 10" like Jody -- or "Northville", like John L. and Bill W. He's from the west coast like Cary -- or the east coast like Harold. He's from Norway by way of Texas like Morten. He's mean like Phil and kind like Dennis. He's young and old, good looking and ugly, quiet and loud, blue collar and white, Democrat and Republican, Buddhist, Baptist, and everything in between. And he was at the Southern Rodmakers Gathering. --------------------

As the party known as "SRG 99" finally broke up just before daylight yesterday morning, I shook hands with Rick Crenshaw, Miles Tiernan, Mike Biondo, Wayne Cattanach, Dennis Higham and a couple of others; kissed Eileen Demarest, and hugged Charlie Curro. I wanted to linger just a few minutes longer but instead hustled behind the protection of the tinted windows of my van, so no one would see the tears of joy and sadness overflow my eyes. Real joy is spending an hour sitting on a rock in the middle of a river with a close friend I had never laid eyes on before last year's gathering; a real friend who is also a trusted counselor and advisor. Real sadness is a friend moving 1000 miles away, knowing that your contact will be more limited in the future. Real joy is the magnanimous Harold Demarest. Real sadness is that we lose friends every year. Joy is Miles' needling a friend.

Dozens of you gave of your time, energy and money to make this happen. Most of all you gave yourselves. That's what makes it good. Twenty years ago rodmakers were known for their secretiveness. Then a little guy from Casnovia got a bunch together, and look what has happened.

If you're interested in joining us for future Southern Rodmakers Gatherings, find out more at our website: SouthernRodmakers

Click here for even more photos of previous Southern Rodmaker Gatherings.

SRG '98
Our first Gathering brought together about 40 rod makers from across the country.
SRG '99
We moved the SRG to Dale Fulton's Lodge for the first time in 1999, giving us plenty of room for casting and demonstrations.
SRG '00
Eighty-one people from 19 states attended our Gathering in October 2000. We managed to get most of them in this shot.

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Boyd Rod Company

Harry Boyd
1211 Newman Street
Winnsboro, Louisiana 71295