Urban sprawl exists a half-hour drive away. But Greg Harkins’s lifestyle is embodied by hand-crafting wooden rockers from personally selected, start-to-finish milled red oaks from the swamp behind his Madison County, Mississippi, home. They’re intended to last generations. And do. His shop is a half-century-old pole barn rife with antlers, chickens, raw lumber and various other natural materials necessary for plying this lost art. A natural storyteller, he fondly remembers hunting with his dad, the old-timer that passed down mid-1800s techniques, old ways, presidential customers, and life lessons that persist in a nowadays otherwise disposable society.

Greg Harkins Chairs

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Life Lessons the Old Way

Ramsey Russell: Remember the other day when I sent you a text, you said something pretty funny, wrote me back about – I told you, Greg introduced me, was bragging on you. You said something pretty dang funny about what he said about you healing the sick and raising the dead. What was that that you said?

Greg Harkins: Well, I said now all that stuff about healing the sick and raising the dead that I really can’t do that, that’s just story. But all the rest of it’s true.

Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere where today I am meeting with Mr. Greg Harkins in Madison County, Mississippi. You all hang on, folks. This is a great story. He cannot raise the dead, but everything else is true and he practices a lost art in the era of disposable lifestyle, Greg?

Greg Harkins: Yes.

Ramsey Russell: How long have you been doing this?

Greg Harkins: Right at 48 years.

Ramsey Russell: 48 years. But did you grow up here in Madison County?

Greg Harkins: I did.

Ramsey Russell: Tell me about growing up around here.

Greg Harkins: Well, it was a much kinder, gentler world, I can tell you that.

Ramsey Russell: Was it?

Greg Harkins: Yes, sir. Mama used to give us $0.35 apiece and put us on the city bus and send us 10 miles to town to watch a movie. And you had all kinds of different amounts of things. You could get popcorn and coke or you could get a hot dog and this and that or you could go light at the theater. Then when you get to the candy shop, you’d have something to buy rock candy with –

Ramsey Russell: $0.35 would buy a lot back in those days.

Greg Harkins: Oh, man, it was like the matinee and all this stuff and much kinder, gentler world. We have no contact with her whatsoever from the time we leave the house, the time we got back. It was pretty safe, I guess, because nobody ever got us.

Ramsey Russell: You told me you grew up hunting and fishing with your daddy. What did you all grow up hunting and fishing?

Greg Harkins: Mostly over in Leake County. That’s where our place was.

Ramsey Russell: Really?

Greg Harkins: That’s where all the Harkins originated, was from there.

Ramsey Russell: I see.

Greg Harkins: Of course, we hunted down at 10 point, down around Rodney and places there, because there were no deer up there, but we hunted rabbits and quail and squirrels.

Ramsey Russell: You told me a story yesterday about squirrel hunting with your daddy. Remember that story you told me?

Greg Harkins: Oh, yeah. That is so ingrained, so embedded in my memories and all like that. Anyway, we were hunting and I was about 5 and daddy was sitting at the base of a tree and had his legs sprawled out and I was sitting up in his little nest and mosquitoes were big as buzzards flying around, all this kind of stuff. And daddy kept saying, hold still, I’ll send you back to the car and all this kind of and I get boy, I get deathly still in about 30 seconds later. And he said, hold still here comes one and he threw up. By the time he shot, he was shooting straight up in the air like that squirrel fell right between my legs and I started to reach down and pick it up. He said, don’t touch that squirrel that thing may still be alive. And he reached over. He loved to thump boys on the head and he did –

Ramsey Russell: My granddaddy did, too.

Greg Harkins: Daddy loved it. Always hurt my finger, but hurt my head, too. But he thumped him on the head like that and he didn’t move. Daddy said, okay, he’s okay. You get him. So I got him and I was looking at this thing and it was just a magnificent example of red squirrel. It was orange as he could be on the belly and just a beautiful creature. And daddy got to talking about, there’s nothing wrong with hunting, fishing. He said, there is something wrong though, if you waste what you kill. He said, that squirrel’s got a whole lot more reason to be out here than we do. He lives here. And daddy just kind of went on –

Ramsey Russell: Did he tear up when he was talking about that. Means he’s a grown man.

Greg Harkins: Yeah, he was showing up grown man, no doubt about that. But he just kind of went on and on a little bit about it. And I looked up at him and there was a big tear rolling out of his eye because he said, this squirrel is a magnificent gift from God and there’s nothing wrong with harvesting God’s bounty, but to waste God’s bounty, he said, now, that’s a different story. You just didn’t do that. And you don’t go shoot 4 or 5 squirrels then go try to find them. What you do is you shoot one, go get him, shoot another one.

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Greg Harkins: He was just teaching like that. But a few seconds later, he said, hold still here comes another shot him, too. I mean, with no remorse whatsoever. Daddy hunted like we were starving in just that way.

Ramsey Russell: How’d your people cook in squirrels?

Greg Harkins: Young ones were fried. Other ones we put in a gravy or a stew. Daddy was an excellent cook. But burner stew and different things like that that we do is always cooking something, making sausage, making wine, doing something.

Ramsey Russell: Did you all hunt ducks together?

Greg Harkins: We killed quite a few ducks together, but not really hunted them. Like we’d be on the river up there and squirrel hunting and occasional duck would come by, something like that. I remember one time he was in one of his teaching modes, which I always hated and he said, here comes 2 ducks that you shoot to the one on the left. So, daddy waited I shot mine, it fell in the water. And daddy waited, shot his, it fell on the ground. He said, go get your duck. And I said, daddy, it’s 300 out here. He said, yeah, but you shot him. If you shot him, you’re going to go get him.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Greg Harkins: I’ll build a farm when you get out like that. And I really at first thought he was kidding and he won’t kid a bit –

Ramsey Russell: Talk about life lessons.

Greg Harkins: Yes, life lesson. What it was, you notice I said, he shot his and it landed on the ground and I shot mine, it landed in the water. He didn’t want to go out there and get that done, but he would have. That was just him.

Ramsey Russell: Tell me one time that you all rabbit hunting and come up on a guy, something about molasses.

Greg Harkins: Yeah. We a lot of times would hunt rabbits towards what we call the holding place. And the holding place was – the farm was in the middle of nowhere and the holding place was in the middle of that. It had rocks there. It’s an outcropping of rocks in that area. It had rocks bigger than school buses. Big sandstone things and all and it was an interesting place, but we’d hunt all up through there and just kind of whatever. If you wanted to squirrel hunt, you went towards a swamp or up in the hills. If you wanted to go quail hunting, you went down towards what we called the meadow and had 8 coveys of quail. Yeah, I think there were 8 coveys of quail, basically, on our 160 acres. That’s how many quail there were back then. Because we were actually hunting on uncle Theodore and all that sort of thing, too.

Ramsey Russell: Well, tell me, for 48 years, nearly for 5 decades, half a century, you’ve been turning out rocking chairs, completely handmade. And you start by selecting a tree and cutting down a tree and milling the tree. And then coming to this you shop here, a pole barn that has obviously turned out a lot of rocking chairs over the years. How in the world did you get into something like that? How did you get started learning a lost art?

Greg Harkins: Mostly. I’d always wanted to live on the farm. I still feel to this day that that is where I should have spent my life. There I had literally hundreds of the souls of my ancestors that were present. They were there. I mean I got some great stories about that one time was I’d come back to the house about. It was Sunday afternoon, late and I was laying out in the hammock, taking a little half a snooze and all. And all of a sudden I felt like I was not there by myself. There was somebody else there. And I kind of set up in the hammock a little bit. But I still had this feeling of a presence. Well, at that time, where the old commissary, which was turned into the barn, was there was like an alley where big daddy bring his mules. They never worked the place with tractors. Never worked it with tractors. But here comes big daddy with his mules and one thing and another.

Ramsey Russell: That was your granddaddy?

Greg Harkins: Yeah. And I was sitting there, like I said, setting the hammock. An entity, I can’t think of a better word to put it, came around what was for the barn was, up through the little alley, onto the road, walked. And it’s nothing that I saw, but I could tell you exactly where it was. Well, it walked to the front, to the sidewalk of the house. And it was not menacing. It was not by any means threatening. It was very pleased and pleasant that I was there. I don’t know who it was. I assume it was a great grandfather. Uncle William would be my great grandfather. And after a few minutes and this went on for a while it’s not something that just happened for a second. This went on for a little while. After a few minutes, it turned and it walked back 50, 60 yards to the side of the side of the road there. Walked down the road because the road made a big turn right there. Walked on, walked back down that alley and the feeling was gone. And I was back there again by myself.

Ramsey Russell: It’s funny you say that, if you don’t mind me sharing my ghost story is used to visit my grandmother and she lived in the old house she was born in. And it was an old house, kind of hall going down the middle and rooms off the side, like the most style houses were and everything was just ancient. I remember the dining room you had to go through from the den of the kitchen. Like, for example, there’s a picture of my great great granddaddy. It was like old Scooby Doo and you walk across that dining room and my balls follow you. You see floors creaking and sound noises. And it was just for a child, it was at times scary. And one time my grandmother come in there to put me down and she said, what’s wrong? I said, ghost. And you think your grandmother would say there’s no such thing as ghost something like that. She didn’t say that. You know what she says? She says, well, honey, they’re your people. They love you. And to this day, that house took on a whole new meaning. But anyway, you were telling me how you got rocking chair.

Greg Harkins: Same thing.

Ramsey Russell: And speaking of living on a farm, somebody want to live on a farm. I mean, it’s hard to believe. At the end of this, I’m going to say a mile dirt road to your shop here. It’s hard to believe I’m just 15 minutes outside of the greater Jackson metropolitan area because this is like living back in those day your granddaddy, great granddaddy did.

Greg Harkins: Pretty much. I’ve always had goats and used to have herd of cows. I always had chickens and stuff.

Presidential Rocking Chairs

how in the world did you get 6 chairs to 6 presidents?

Ramsey Russell: Well, how are you going to go from getting started in this rocking chair business? Connect me to sensing your ancestors while laying in that hammock on the farm and how you got into this rocking chair business?

Greg Harkins: Well, I guess I was like a lot of kids are today in much different way, but I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to be a bank teller. I thought about doing something in the medical field like that. But with my grades, that was probably –

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I do know.

Greg Harkins: Like that and you know, one thing and another. And I moved Thomastown. That was my –

Ramsey Russell: Leake County.

Greg Harkins: Yeah. Where my grandparents were from that area, they were at from Saint Ann’s. And just kind of looking for something to raise a few dollars to buy some gas, a little bit of groceries and some shells. Everything I’ve ever done in my life I’ve got great stories about it.

Ramsey Russell: I can tell.

Greg Harkins: None of them – I had a guy ask me the other day, how in the world did you get 6 chairs to 6 presidents? And his idea was that I just boxed them up, sent them to New York and then I could say, well, I sent a chair to Ronald Reagan.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Greg Harkins: No.

Ramsey Russell: Well, how did you do that?

Greg Harkins: I have not the slightest idea.

Ramsey Russell: They found you.

Greg Harkins: Well, I talked to them from the Neshoba County Fair. They said they weren’t given anything more. They’ve already got more money, spent this whole thing than they ever intended to. And they said they sure weren’t going to spend any more money on a Republican. It’s just that was – and I said, well, I said, I can’t give you the chair, but I would do it for the cost of the materials just anything like that. Because back then, man, a bologna sandwich was like, yay. Anyway, next thing you knew, they were all very interested in this rocker. And I don’t know what exactly what spurred them on, but I talked with then a man named last name of Kang was the president of the Neshoba County Fair. And I talked to him and everything, and he told me, come here, come there, ask for this person, ask for that person, which you know is what I did. And he said, well, but they’ve decided not to give the chair to him or something like that. And I thought, well, I’m talking to the wrong somebody.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Greg Harkins: There’s no doubt about that. I need to talk to Mr. King.

Ramsey Russell: They’re probably going to keep it for themselves.

Greg Harkins: I need to talk to Mr. King. So I found where he was and I went there and talked to him. He said all I can tell you is there’s more Democrats here than all Republicans. Take the chair, put it on stage. If anybody gives you a problem, tell them I said this, okay. And if nothing else, I’ll try to get your chair back. Of course, after that, it was on. I hate to put it this way, but it was like I was on a mission from God. And I came to the line of constables and I said the president King told me to put this thing up on stage and they let me through and I came to the city police and I told them the same thing, they let me through and came to the Neshoba County sheriff’s department and I actually knew one of them, so they sure let me on through Mississippi –

Ramsey Russell: Right. Small family.

Greg Harkins: And then I got to the fourth line, I guess, of defense or whatever you want to call it, of protection. And I got to the fourth line that was the secret service. I ain’t go past that, they didn’t work I ain’t go float. But they brought a dog over there and dog sniffed around on the chair and had looked in, looked and this and that, told one of the agents to go put it up on the porch. And what happened was – and they asked if I wanted to present it to them. I thought, no, you all present it to them. And I’m going to go drive down the road. I got 2000 cards, brand new box of cards. They never had box of cards before.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Greg Harkins: And this is 48 years ago. Anyway, I had 2 boxes of cards or had a box of cards. So I drove down the road, set up on side of the road, had a couple of 2, 3 chairs with me. I put them on top of the truck and just to draw attention like that. And back at the Neshoba County Fair stage, they had come on stage. Mr. and Mrs. Reagan both went directly to that chair.

Ramsey Russell: Really?

Greg Harkins: And then all of a sudden, it’s everybody’s idea. Everybody’s a hero in this deal. Well, I passed out 2000 cards in about 2000 seconds. As fast as I could. It was like dealing blackjack.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah

Greg Harkins: And at the time, I was 5 chairs or so behind, which is kind of like knowing that you got a job till next Wednesday. And I sold a few chairs because stuff started coming out in the newspaper, the commercial appeal, one thing and another all these different papers. And they said some guy named Carter had built the chair. So I real quick jumped in there and got that straight. And when that happened, not UPS, but AP and Associated Press and all those different guys, they’ve picked up on that story, for whatever. And I started doing interviews with people up in, I would do radio interviews in Rochester, New York and stuff like that. And every time I even looked at a reporter, it was worth 2 or 3 more chairs.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Greg Harkins: You’d think, well, that’s probably what made his business it actually, in the long run. Back in the day, I remember thinking of how much damage it had done.

Ramsey Russell: How so?

Greg Harkins: Well, one thing is my goal was always to build as fine a quality chair as Greg Harkins could build. And if you have orders for 5, 10 chairs, you sure don’t want to hurt nobody’s feelings.

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Greg Harkins: So you make an exquisite chair. All of a sudden, I was 186 chairs behind in 2 weeks.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Greg Harkins: And that’s a lot of work. And I would hire friends of mine or whoever. The quality of what I was doing, I felt was beginning to suffer. That’s when I began to really micromanage and turn all the parts and drill all the holes, do everything where you can’t make, can’t mess it up.

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Greg Harkins: Once the hole is drilled straight and the tenon is straight on the round, you can’t do anything but straight in that post. So in that way, it helped. But it’s still –

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Who –

Greg Harkins: Some things are hard to explain. I’ve always been a thing called a feeler.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Greg Harkins: I can’t tell you why I feel, why I feel this when I meet people.

Ramsey Russell: You follow your heart, follow your good instinct. I think I’m the same way.

Greg Harkins: I mean, there’s no doubt. No doubt. And I used to be so much more than I am now that it’s not funny. Used to be I would think of somebody I hadn’t seen in 15 years, and 5 minutes later, they’d walk in the shop.

Ramsey Russell: Ain’t that something –

Greg Harkins: And that happened over and over and over. And I had so much publicity. I’ve always had lots of friends and God blessed me with that. But like I said, I think of somebody that I hadn’t seen since I got out of college. And within 15, 20 minutes, they walk in the shop.

Ramsey Russell: Well. Before you put that rocking chair up on stage for Ronald Reagan, you had to learn how to make a rocking chair. And I mean, even back in those days, 50 years ago, there was still a lot of import stuff coming out of China. There was still a lot of, not handcrafted, but mass commercialization. Who taught you how to do this as a lost art, to absolutely go out in the woods and select that tree and turn it into this product like what you’re sitting in right now?

Greg Harkins: Well, Tommy and Mabel Bell. Mr. Tommy was my master. I was his apprentice.

Ramsey Russell: Now, where’s he from Leake County?

Greg Harkins: Leake County.

Ramsey Russell: Okay.

Greg Harkins: In Thomastown. And actually lived outside of there, they’re not any chairmakers in Thomastown anymore, which is real sad to me, but –

Ramsey Russell: It was like chair capital of the world. wasn’t?

Greg Harkins: Now the chair capital of the world is Canton, Mississippi.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right. Here we are.

Greg Harkins: All you got to do is ask.

Ramsey Russell: You thought about being a doctor, but you thought about being this –

Greg Harkins: Brain surgeon.

Ramsey Russell: Thought about doing something else, you know, a brain surgeon. But can you remember me, what was it about walking into wood chips and the sawdust and meeting them? What was it? When you go, this is my calling. Vietnam wasn’t been going on at the time.

Greg Harkins: Yeah, it was.

Ramsey Russell: Was that an incentive.

Greg Harkins: No. With all of that, I don’t know. I’ve always had a quick ear for old folks stories.

Ramsey Russell: Me, too.

Greg Harkins: They’ve always really interest me when I tell people that my last semester in college, I borrowed $750, $750 paid for my tuition, my books, my rent, lights, gas, water and I had $14 a month that I could spend on anything I wanted to.

Ramsey Russell: I don’t think you can buy a meal ticket for that no more.

Greg Harkins: I don’t think so. I don’t think you get supper.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

The Rocking Chair Capital of the World

These rocking chairs you make from red oak, water oak, which is locally abundant, right?

Greg Harkins: But $14 a month to do anything I wanted to. So I had me a lawnmower and I had this and that and I’d go out there and cut some yards $2, $3. But $2 $3 was actually money back then. I rode, bike, whole lot. Had a little grass bag that would balloon up the more you put in it. And I’d pick up coke bottles on the way to school and I had the high road and the low road. So if you went the high road to school and saw enough bottles, saw say, 10 bottles, well, 3 hours later, there’d probably be 15. I’d come back down that way. I’d go the little store across the road from the house where I was living and you could buy slices of bread, slices of bologna. I never smoked cigarettes, but I always say, you buy a cigarette for a penny.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Greg Harkins: You know, like that. You know, next day, a little chipmunk right over there.

Ramsey Russell: I see him.

Greg Harkins: That’s something we just started having around here. I’ve really never seen them around here, but they have taken up nest in that planter. But anyway, you go to store and you get what you – if you had a little bit extra, you could even buy Coca Cola.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. A lot of folks listening probably don’t remember returnable bottles. Boy, I walked many a mile picking up returnable bottles and then financed a high school and junior high school video arcade, passion on pop bottles. And now everything’s just disposable.

Greg Harkins: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: So you met with Mr. Bell. What was he like? How did he learn? What was his history? Why was Thomastown the capital of the world for rocking chairs back then? Because –

Greg Harkins: There was a man named Rouse and another man named Spruul. And I don’t know which one was the older of the two, but this is way before the Civil War that moved into that area. I know where one of the 2 shops were, I can put my finger on it. The other one, I don’t know. But they started building chairs. It was something that they had learned, probably from the old country or whatever, like that. They started building chairs. You worked for them. After year or 2, you’d say, well, shoot, I can do that. They didn’t have anything but a bracing bit and a hammer and axe. That was a shop. They’d whittle their tenons on stuff, I mean all kinds of stuff. Made pegs to peg the chairs with – I still peg my chairs. And they would take a piece of iron, have a hole drilled in it and drive little bitty squares through that hole. And the edges of the round hole in that steel would cut you round peg.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, I see.

Greg Harkins: You take your bracing bit, punch a hole in 2 or 3 different spots that tend to come loose. And I peg my chair now in everywhere that I regularly saw pegs, the front post up the back, stuff like that.

Ramsey Russell: Did they teach you how to select the trees and cut the trees and tear the wood?

Greg Harkins: Tommy Bell was 80 when I was working with him. And I remember we were driving down the road one day and he slammed the brakes on, jumped out, said, come here, come here. Let me show you something come here, let me show you something. I mean, he practically high jumped that fence. Man, he was passionate, he was all about it. And anyway, he walked up this nice big red oak like that, rubbed his hands on it and smelled his hands. And he said, no, this ain’t the one. He said, smell my hands. I smelled his hand, I didn’t smell anything. He walked over to another one and scrubbed his hands up and down, wiped off real good on his pants and on the ground and scrubbed another one like that and smelled it. And he said, this one would be better than that one. Let’s look a little bit more – finally found a tree a little further off. He said, now, this is a chair tree. This one will split. It will do all these different things that they needed at the time. They needed for it to –  That’s how it worked. They didn’t have a saw they would rive everything out, rive their squares out, all this kind of stuff.

Ramsey Russell: With hand tool.

Greg Harkins: Yeah, with an axe and a fro and a bracing bit. And that was it.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Greg Harkins: And you think, well, how old was this guy? He was 11. His brother was 13. By the time Tommy Bell was 15, he and his brothers had kind of parted ways. And the biggest reason was the fact that his brother was just old enough that he was just starting to learn about girls.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, yeah.

Greg Harkins: So he wasn’t quite as interested as building chairs as Mr. Tommy was.

Ramsey Russell: Girls will do that to you.

Greg Harkins: Girls will do that to you. Like I said, it just kind of goes on and on. That’s –

Ramsey Russell: Well, how do you know? Because you were telling me yesterday. These rocking chairs you make from red oak, water oak, which is locally abundant, right?

Greg Harkins: Yeah, it is.

Ramsey Russell: Big black river water oak is locally abundant. That’s what you favor is water oak?

Greg Harkins: No, it’s what I’ve got.

Ramsey Russell: It’s what you got. Okay.

Greg Harkins: Yeah I have got.

Ramsey Russell: What do you favor?

Greg Harkins: My number one is walnut.

Ramsey Russell: Okay.

A Chairmaker’s Secret

Greg Harkins: Of course I get walnut from here to there. And I make bodock chairs. It’s a thorn tree that they used to make fence posts out of.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Greg Harkins: And it is totally indestructible. You’re not going to tear it up.

Ramsey Russell: It’ll burn up a chainsaw blade.

Greg Harkins: It will. It will do it.

Ramsey Russell: How do you select the trees? Like, I don’t understand. I’m forced. I don’t understand what the man was doing, rubbing those trees and smelling his hand.

Greg Harkins: Something about. I don’t know. I mean basically what I do is I just use good quality, clean. You said something yesterday about –

Ramsey Russell: I did because –

Greg Harkins: Knots.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Because water oak is bad. Especially if you thin around it any. It’s bad to fur up and get a lot of epicormic branches. And a lot of the water oak I’ve seen would look so naughty. Little bitty bitty knots. It looks like you shot it with birdshot. And this wood is so clean. I never in a million years would have guessed water oak. Smooth and clean.

Greg Harkins: They some pretty good ones down there, though.

Ramsey Russell: So walk me through the process. You go down here to the bottom, you find you a good size water oak. What’s a good size water oak? 28 inch diameter bigger?

Greg Harkins: That’s about Max. I have a hard time. Just the equipment it takes to load and unload. Most of what I use is about an 18 inch.

Ramsey Russell: Okay.

Greg Harkins: I use it all. But I’ve got to where now too. I even have got to the point that I cut my post 6 foot 6. I cut my log –

Ramsey Russell: length of the length. Yeah.

Greg Harkins: That way you get a back post and a front post.

Ramsey Russell: I see.

Greg Harkins: Plus it makes it a whole lot lighter. It’s not as hard on my little tractor and one thing another, not as hard on me.

Ramsey Russell: So you cut those trees and fell them and then what? How long the guy lay there? I mean, when you saw it up.

Greg Harkins: I like to leave him laying there at least 5 minutes.

Ramsey Russell: Okay. Atleast. Yeah.

Greg Harkins: I built chairs one time, an old man, because I worked with 7 different men, they were chairmakers. And Tommy Bell would send me over somebody else’s. You ought to go meet so and so. You ought to go meet so and so like that. Well, most of what he – I realized even about halfway through the deal that most of the people that he sent me to were old folks that needed a little fence work done or needed a little nailing some roof ten down. Just too old to get up there and do it and all that, which I didn’t mind a bit, but every one of them had their own little niche that they might make church pews and all that kind of stuff. And then make rockers when they had time or a lot of wagon makers made chairs because they have all the same tools. And when it got to where you needed to, when you got to that point like that run out of any wagon work, you turn, make chairs, axe handles, make something.

Ramsey Russell: From a time you fell that tree to the time it rolls off at your shop in a finished rocking chair that might end up in a president’s or celebrities or just anybody that appreciates a good handmade chair. How long does that take?

Greg Harkins: Well, it takes – I’ve got about 20 hours per chair. If I build them in batches of 10 and I’ve got some help to do just the odd jobs, the go get me a glass of water type things. And it takes at least that amount of time.

Ramsey Russell: At least that amount of time. And that’s with your help in here. Everybody kind of touching it and working on different phases. Like, I was back there watching one of your helpers weaving the back with the retain. That’s a very time consuming thing. It looked like maybe that’s all he did for the day and then –

Greg Harkins: It took him a day to do the bottom

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Greg Harkins: So that’s 8 hours right there. Probably took us 10 hours to get the frame to that point. Now we got 18 hours in it. And then finish time is usually give or take 4 hours.

Ramsey Russell: Well, you got 3 or 4 helpers here. Do all of them just kind of specialize in certain parts of this construction?

Greg Harkins: Sort of.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Greg Harkins: I really only have one. I have an apprentice and he’s the only – what I would call full time.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Greg Harkins: Other guys work, just kind of a day here and a day there. It’s not a –

Ramsey Russell: Well, with all that time and labor that goes into this thing, how do you set the price for?

Greg Harkins: Well, how Tommy Bell told me to do it. He said, you charge what you have to charge in order that you can continue doing it. And he said one of the things he always does before he would set the price is look at their shoes. And if they had a real nice set of shoes on, they probably got good money. And if they got old ragged shoes or crocs.

Ramsey Russell: You’re looking at my shoes when you say that.

Greg Harkins: Yeah, I’m looking at mine, too.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Means I won’t have to pay as much.

Greg Harkins: That’s right. Now, do you want to sell a chair or not? Do you need flour and stuff bad enough to work for in today’s time $5 an hour. Sometimes price come way down. All the way down from $3 down to $75. And that was money.

Ramsey Russell: That was money. Got to do what you got to do to keep the wolves at bay.

Greg Harkins: That’s right.

Ramsey Russell: Don’t you?

Greg Harkins: But he’d go to the store. He’d sell something, he’d go to the store, deal was that they took his daddy’s mule and wagon and they had about 100 miles route that they ran. But they couldn’t get further than 10 miles from the house. So they would stay with aunt Sudie and they’d stay with uncle Peter’s house and they’d stay at so and so’s house, they’d stay at aunt Thelma’s house like that. But they were all, like I said, just about a 10 yard, 10 mile radius around like that. That way, if they got lost, somebody know who they were and send them back home. But when they got back, they owed the daddy first pick of what was on the wagon. Then they also owed him a dime if they made any money. At that point, I just had to break in if they made any money, he said, boy, a lot of times people just traded. They’ve trading a chicken for pears and pears for peaches and peaches for apples and apples for chairs. And if mom and daddy didn’t have no apples, we’d trade for apples like that. And he said, every once in a while, somebody pay you some money. And once we paid my daddy his dime, we take the rest of the money, and they’re talking about money like 60 cents. He said, my favorite thing to buy was a big handful of sprigs as a one inch finishing nail. Every time he told me that story, he was a pretty big storyteller. Every time he told me that story, that thing about the number one thing he got was something to work with and the last thing he got was always one of them great big jawbreakers, he said, because they last a long time.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Greg Harkins: And I thought that was just – I mean it’s like the story I told you yesterday about Ms. Bell telling me that Tommy was excellent husband, that he kept us in food, so we were never hungry. I said, as far as money. She said there wasn’t much money to go around. And she said, if I hadn’t got a job at that parachute factory up in Kosciusko, she said, Tommy Bell’s children would have never known what a soda cracker even tasted like. I have laughed about that. I mean, think about it.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Greg Harkins: Just how basic can you get.

Ramsey Russell: Not much more basic than that.

Greg Harkins: Tommy Bell provided fish for the church dinner on the grounds and stuff like that. He showed me how to catch fish. He said, we’re going to go fishing today. I got all excited. Oh, yeah, we’re going to fish. After work today, we’re going to go fish. He fumbled around in the back, back there and came out with a stick of dynamite. And he had about a half dozen places, people that he knew that had little ponds and one thing, liquors back then, they’d eat anything like cats anything, wouldn’t matter. And he was fixing to take a spinning rod and he’d tie that stick of dynamite onto the spinning rod because he didn’t have much of a shoulder left. He’d take his spinning rod and throw it out there in the middle and as soon as it boom, like that, we would jump in the boat and we’d go around and we’d scoop up all the fish. And I said, oh, Mr. Bell, I can throw it out there to the middle. He said, can you throw it that far? I said, yeah, it’s no problem at all. They’re little bitty ponds, cow ponds, almost –

Ramsey Russell: Stock tanks.

Greg Harkins: Yeah. Little bigger, but not half can more. But anyway, he was going, quick, let’s get the biggest ones now, all this kind of stuff. And 10 years later or so, he’d come back and blow that up again.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Greg Harkins: It’s like this day and time. Everything has got so many laws and so many regulations. He was talking about feeding the church.

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Greg Harkins: And you know it’s a lot of things have changed.

Ramsey Russell: Simpler people, simpler times. But we still trade instead of trading for apples and pears, I reckon you trade for $100 bills and still money. You trade that rocking chair for money, money is gone next year and that share is going to last their lifetime.

Greg Harkins: Maybe for 100 years.

Ramsey Russell: Kind of same thing, isn’t it? You were telling me one time about –

Greg Harkins: Doesn’t equal outright.

Ramsey Russell: Don’t equal outright. But trade is a trade. You were telling me about some of your favorite things to make. You got this standard chair. Let’s start there. Tell me about what this standard chair is. It’s red oak material. It’s rattan. Where does the rattan come from? You collect it here, too?

Greg Harkins: No, the rattan comes out of Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia.

Ramsey Russell: Is that a vine or a bamboo?

Greg Harkins: It is a freestanding grass is what I’ve –

Ramsey Russell: Like a bamboo.

Greg Harkins: Like a bamboo, but it has a little more band. It leans on itself kind of and I don’t know if that’s even remotely true.

Unique Rocking Chairs

That’s my favorite to work on is old chairs. That not just old chairs somebody pulled out of the garbage.

Ramsey Russell: Well, back in the old days, back 100 years ago, 150 years ago, some of them folks you’re talking about, they wouldn’t had access to that. What would they have used?

Greg Harkins: Well, if they were from, see, cane bottom chairs came from coastal Charlotte, New Orleans, places like that. And they also used this same rattan. They used it to lash the ship together with the mask and stuff with its extremely durable, extremely water resistant, doesn’t rot. All this kind of stuff. I think it just kind of got to be a fashion. But Mr. Bell taught me how to weave cattails, how to weave corn shucks, how to weave with – I mean just whatever, they worked with whatever they had. Cane bottoms, bark bottoms, hide bottom chairs.

Ramsey Russell: You were telling me yesterday some of your favorite stuff to work with you and you might make a special chair that uses different materials for the bottoms. Like what?

Greg Harkins: Well, a lot of times people will bring me a chair here that’s their great grandfather’s. That’s my favorite to work on is old chairs. That not just old chairs somebody pulled out of the garbage. I mean an old chair that you –

Ramsey Russell: Family heirloom.

Greg Harkins: Yeah. That mama used to rock me in this when I was a baby and the person that would have brought it here was 80, that kind of thing. And if you can breathe a little life back into this chair, I sure would appreciate it. I love working for those people. Generally speaking charge them less than I do. Walmart shoppers.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. What are some of the materials you use? You said something about animal hides.

Greg Harkins: Well, one of my favorite things to do, I used to do some guided hunts here on the place. And I started off doing this and that one thing, another ended up doing nothing but father son hunts, father daughter hunts, grandfather granddaughter, that kind of thing. Grandfather grandson hunts. I was good enough that I could walk from here to the river and pretty much, I mean, our kill rate was about 50%. And killed some nice ones, I’m talking about. But I’ll tell them, you all get up in that stand right there. And I said, that deer is going to come out from right there about 8:00 he’s going to come right across here and he’s going to go right up in that little, see that little hole right there, he’s going to go right back up in that little hole across this road right here. At 9:00, pow. I had one guy called up and said, look, I got a guy here, he’s about your size and everything. He has never hunted in his life. He’s doing some bulldozer work for me. He’s just dying to go deer hunt. And I said, well, it’s $100 a point, $300 a gun like that. So if you come hunting, you owe me $300. If you kill an 8 points, you owe me $1,100.

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Greg Harkins: I got this guy back there, he’s about my size. I put my hat, my gun, I put my glasses on him, dressed him all up, he looked good. Took him back there and I said, now take the crosshairs in the sight and put it right and showed him on a picture of a deer right there. Because this gun, at 75, 80 yards, you could absolutely shoot him in the eye, which I did one time, too. I was climbing up a tree and I looked over there and I thought, somebody has hung a fake deer on side of that tree. Just messing with me. This thing was perfect attention. And I kept looking I thought, oh, God, that thing he just wiggled his ear like that. And I was about halfway up the ladder and had a gun over my shoulder. And I thought to myself, you fixing a bolt, aren’t you? So I eased that gun around there and I’m going to shoot you right in your eye. And deer flopped over, kicked a few times, one thing, another, that’s the end of it. And I went over there, I couldn’t find a drop of blood. I couldn’t find nothing. And got him back to the camp. I said, I killed him. I don’t have any idea what killed him. And when we hung him up, blood started dripping out of both of his eyes.

Ramsey Russell: I’ll be done.

Greg Harkins: I had shot him in one eye, out the other and had not even burst the eyelid. On either eye. How you do that?

Ramsey Russell: I don’t know. Stranger things have happened. But you’ve used like first deer and stuff like that to make some of these rocking chairs.

Greg Harkins: Yeah. You take a guy, most times, the first thing they’re going to kill is going to be a dough. So there is no real trophy. Well, they’ll bring me the hide and I’ll build a chair, put the hide bottom in a chair. They’ll have that chair the rest of the life.

Ramsey Russell: You obviously still do quite a bunch of hunting. I’m sitting here in your shop, out here in this pole barn. You got all kinds of nice antlers hanging up. You shot them locally?

Greg Harkins: Yeah, these one I shot last year. I didn’t hunt very much last year. This ones I shot last year. Most, all of them are local. Most of them, all of this place. But some of them are from in and around, friends of mine. One thing and the other.

Ramsey Russell: How many deer you try to shoot 1 or 2 deer a year to keep the freezer full?

Greg Harkins: Well, I used to shoot 4 and I just don’t use it like I did. So I’ve cut down now and I shoot the exact deer or maybe 2 that I want, which is about 80 pounds, maiden dough type, stuff like that. If you go shoot one, shoot the most good one.

Times Have Changed

Ramsey Russell: That’s right. What other presidents and celebrities have used your rocking chair?

Greg Harkins: Well, Carter, Reagan, Bush.

Ramsey Russell: Daddy Bush or Bush Jr.

Greg Harkins: Both of them.

Ramsey Russell: Okay.

Greg Harkins: Clinton and then Donald Trump.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Greg Harkins: Is it legal to say anything politically? I voted for Trump twice. I still think at this day and time he would probably be the safest president we would have because nobody knows what he’s going to do.

Ramsey Russell: But into the crying shame. And I vote for Trump twice also. But into the crying shame, 330,000,000 Americans the way behind I mean –

Greg Harkins: We can’t feel somebody that is morally –

Ramsey Russell: Really.

Greg Harkins: Morally and ethically sound. Right now, I personally feel like that both Donald Trump and Joe Biden should be tried for treason.

Ramsey Russell: Arson.

Greg Harkins: I mean, if you had classified documents at your house, what would they say to you?

Ramsey Russell: Oh, boy. Yeah.

Greg Harkins: And I don’t care if the housekeeper at the White House accidentally brought them. I don’t care who brought them over there. They’re at your house. There should be a trial about towards treason and treason is a hanging offense.

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Greg Harkins: And I don’t – I’ve never not voted. I’ve always voted. And I missed one time when I had the flu. If it was between Trump and Biden. I don’t know who I could vote for.

Ramsey Russell: Well, I know who I’d vote for between them, too. I know exactly who I’d vote for. I believe anybody be better than the folks we got in office right now, hands down. But I like to think, like, I talked to somebody recently about George Washington. George Washington had a life, he had a business, he had ambitions. Politics was just something he did as his duty to the newly founded country. It wasn’t a career. It wasn’t about advancing his causes. It was just something he did. He paid his dues to get this country kicked off. And I think a lot of politics evolved that way. It wasn’t a career. It was just something you did to serve your country. Like John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what you can do, what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. I think that’s what a lot of those old politicians. But now it’s just freaking, how can we stick our beaks and all this money. That’s what it seems like. And I just think with 330,000,000 Americans, there’s got to be lots of people, lots of people listening that better represent my interest. I see these city, these town hall meetings, so called town hall meetings, where the public gets to get up and ask these guys these candidates questions and you can tell they’re all planted questions, because if a guy like me could get in there, I’d want to raise my hand and put somebody on spot and say, what does a gallon of milk cost where you are? What does a gallon of gas cost? How much does it cost to fill up your truck? And how does a dollar increase affect your life? Because it affects most of us. You know what I’m saying? And they don’t represent me. It seems like today’s politicians, especially at the national level, most represent themselves than us.

Greg Harkins: Well, it’s like I said, I knew Mike Espy. I would say I knew him fairly well for just a casual friendship. They voted him in or appointed him to agriculture. And how long was he in office? 6 months.

Ramsey Russell: One long.

Greg Harkins: He wouldn’t play with them.

Ramsey Russell: Well, that’s the one thing I’m not playing with him. That’s the one thing about Trump I think most appealed to me is the fact that the media hated him, Democrats hated him, a lot of Republicans hated him, which made me love me more. You know I’m saying I mean –

Greg Harkins: If all those people hated him, it must be some reason.

Ramsey Russell: That’s the way I looked at it, Greg. That’s the way I looked at it. Times sure have changed. I’m going to get back a little bit more on track, because time sure has changed. And we started off talking about your daddy taking his squirrel hunting and shedding a tear, explaining to his son at a tender age about hunting and what that wildlife meant and everything else. And you were telling me about one day you was running down a road and you saw a coyote on the side of the road. What –

Greg Harkins: That was just this last year.

Ramsey Russell: What made you stop and notice that coyote?

Greg Harkins: Well, it was a real big coyote. And I, from time to time, put hide bottoms in chairs and sometimes I’ll pick them up on the side of the road. But when I got out, he was a little bloated, because I won’t fool that, but there was also a croker sack that had 19 wood ducks in it. So whoever had thrown the coyote out also threw out, had killed and just threw them away.

Ramsey Russell: Threw them at the sides of the road?

Greg Harkins: 19 wood ducks. When you could have at least taken them down to the trailer park, to the Latino trailer park, they’d be absolutely delighted.

Ramsey Russell: Sure.

Greg Harkins: Anything. Or don’t shoot them if you’re not going to use them.

Ramsey Russell: And I’m building up to this point, what does a guy that still makes chairs from scratch, chopping the tree down the swamp, drying it, saw, milling it, aging it, shaping it, making this beautiful art of work the best Greg Harkins can make. Every single of this turn out that’s going to last life time, generations. What did it say to you today an old timer living in a disposable society?

Greg Harkins: I don’t much like it here. Here lately I’ve had some medical stuff and one thing and another and when I get through working, I am so tired. I don’t go in and cook like I used to and I’ve eaten more hamburgers and ain’t nothing wrong with a good hamburger. But –

Ramsey Russell: My favorite food group.

Greg Harkins: Yeah, one of my favorite food groups, but there’s nothing wrong with a hamburger. But there are different places you can get them. And I don’t know, I’ve eaten more hamburgers and more just garbage in the last little bit. And I have just totally, simply made a vow that I’m going to get back to eating like I am supposed to. I eat vegetables and a lot of vegetables, a lot of fruit, a lot of all that kind of stuff. I feel better when I do that.

Ramsey Russell: Yes.

Greg Harkins: And just to put something in your stomach to keep the front end of your stomach from eating up the backside of it, I wouldn’t raise that way. It’s not good enough for me. If I can do better, if I can’t do any better, that’s fine. I’m proud to have what I got.

From Lasting Products to a Disposable Legacy

I mean bodock chairs, they are just drop dead gorgeous. That’s all there is to it. 

Ramsey Russell: But times have changed since those guys was out plowing around the county, 10 mile radius at home, swapping whatever they could get just to make ends meet. And mama had to go get a job at the parachute factory for him to ever taste a soda cracker, saltine. It seems to be just this real disposable mindset. And here you are, still turning out things the ancient way, using your lost art. How do you feel about that?

Greg Harkins: Well, first of all, it’s just me. I’ve had people come busting up in this shop, where’s Mr. Harkins? Back when I was young man. And I’d say, well, I’m Greg Harkins. Well, where’s your father? I’d say, well, I don’t know working. He’s traveling salesman. Well, where’s the man that makes a rocking chair? I said, well, I do. And I had received so much publicity and stuff like that that people just assumed that I was an old man. And what it was is I had taken the pieces and parts and stories and things from Tommy Bell and his cronies had taken them to heart.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Greg Harkins: It was just that way.

Ramsey Russell: Must take a lot of satisfaction knowing when somebody pulls up one of your rocking chairs, go off, that their grandkids are probably going to still be using it.

Greg Harkins: I got a text the other day from a girl who, when they came and picked the chair out, they got a bodock chair. I mean bodock chairs, they are just drop dead gorgeous. That’s all there is to it. But she got a bodock chair and they lived out of town. So I shipped the chair to them. When they got the chair, she text back and said, it is beyond my dreams. She said, well, then about 3, 4, 5, 8 weeks later, she sends another picture and she’s got her shirt kind of pulled up just a little bit, showing off her belly and showed her a picture of the baby’s room and the rocking chair and all this kind of thing like that. And then the last picture I got was a couple of few days ago of her sitting in that chair, had the baby, had come home and sitting there rocking the baby. And if I had been, I don’t know, insurance salesman, I’d be a multi, multimillionaire. But I never had any desire whatsoever to do anything like that. I wanted to do something of worth and something of value that people would say, here comes the rocking chair man. I took a piece of machinery to a place yesterday and the guy, he didn’t want to do it, just a piddly little deal. Not that he wouldn’t have done it because he seemed to be a real nice fella, but he just wasn’t stoked. He asked what my name was and that’s Greg Harkins. He said, you mean the one that makes the rocking chairs? Yeah. I can get this thing running back for you again tomorrow. It’s no problem there and then on this other thing we’re going to work on, he said, let me get it pulled apart. And we may have to either make or find another pulley, but we’ll get it fixed up pretty quick for you. I mean, it’s fun to be recognized. One time was going to a show down in Fayette, down past Fayette in Natchez and I was late and I was driving as fast as my little truck would go. Got to Fayette, got pulled over and the officer got out of the car. Big old guy. He got out of the car and he made this move. I thought he was fixing to draw on me. And he said, you’re the man made a rocking chair for Ronald Reagan. And not only did he not give me a ticket, he ordered a chair and he told me what road to get on. He said, it’s not even patrolled you go fast, you want to. And not that – you can sell, it’s just your ego or it’s just this, it’s really not. Egos are nice and everything, but they don’t put much food on table.

Ramsey Russell: Everybody seems like a lot of folks, they want to be a celebrity. I do not and like I say, there was only one Elvis Presley. Whole lot of folks played music on radio, but there was only one king. Celebrity is so ephemeral. But something like when you turn out these heartfelt products that last generation, to me, it just whole another level. You see what I’m saying?

Greg Harkins: And what I was saying, too, about that lady, I have more people. My mother, for something like 28 years, answered my phone. Well, now, what better cheerleader could you have?

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Greg Harkins: For one thing. And she absolutely loved doing it because she met people all over the country. She had taxi cab drivers from Queens, up in New York. A pair of taxi cab drivers drove down and picked up 2 chairs one time, had people come from Washington state. And I told them, I said, mommy said you’re going to be here about 10:00 and it was probably 11:00, something like that. We had a long ways to go and everything. We just didn’t realize how much more time it was going to take. Alright that’s no problem at all. I’m going to be here working anyway. They had driven from Seattle, Washington. I said, well, where are you all going? He said, here. I said, I mean, where are you going when you leave from here, home.

Ramsey Russell: Home.

Greg Harkins: And he said, well, we kind of, kind of sight saw a little bit coming down and we’ll do the same thing going back up. But we basically came to pick this chair and this thing I had with hometown down in Laurel, Mississippi, there’s so many people came from so many different places. They wanted to see it, they wanted to smell it, they wanted to feel it. Where did you get the wood to make this chair? One of them, I said, you see that blank spot in that tree line right there? That tree was standing right there. And I have lived a blessed life. I have always proclaimed myself to be a soldier of Jesus Christ. Soldiers, a lot of times are not very savory people. They kill folks and stuff. But if the line was drawn, I know which side I’d stand on.

Ramsey Russell: Sure.

Greg Harkins: It was just that way.

Passing on the Craft

Ramsey Russell: In this day and age, talking about disposable and how times have changed and whether you talk about duck hunting or making rocking chairs, how do you pass the torch? How do you go from here to one day knowing that when you’re pushing up poses that somebody else is carrying on this tradition or can you. Is there any interest? How do you train somebody for something?

Greg Harkins: My buddy Hodges, who I would like for you to interview a little bit, too. Hodges has been, really been a godsend to me here lately. He will do anything I ask him to do.

Ramsey Russell: That’s your protege in there. Okay.

Greg Harkins: He realizes that this ain’t no ordinary demon right here. It’s about that way and it’s I have had some just totally remarkable gifts in my life. But a lot of those gifts, how they came about was perseverance.

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Greg Harkins: Being at the right place at the right time, knowing the right thing to say to the right somebody. I’m at home talking to a legless man in New York City on a street corner, sharpening pencils as I was inside talking to the president.

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Greg Harkins: It just didn’t make much difference. They’re people. Everybody’s got a story.

Ramsey Russell: Yep. Greg, how can folks get in touch with you if you got a website or you’re too old school for that?

Greg Harkins: No, I’m too old school for that. But how do they get to it, I don’t know. But it’s greg@harkinschairs.com.

Ramsey Russell: Okay.

Greg Harkins: Or harkinschairs.com.

Ramsey Russell: Harkinschairs.com. I appreciate your time this morning. I’ve enjoyed meeting with you and enjoyed looking around your shop, enjoying seeing how all this goes on and it’s just refreshing. It’s like coming down that driveway back to your shop. It’s like stepping back 100 years ago.

Greg Harkins: Well, how I used to describe it is that when I came along, I had the opportunity to peer through a window that a long time ago had been shut. They were just couple more, another 5 years, probably 4 of those 7 guys I worked for were dead. And they all had their own way of doing stuff. They had their own idea about what’s the best thing to, best way to go about it. Some of them made church pews and benches and then chairs if they didn’t have any orders for anything else. And some of them made nothing but chairs. Tommy Bell was kind of a chairmaker gardener. And he would set his watermelons and corn, if he was going to go out of town, go to city or whatever for the day or something, he’d line up, put him a couple of chairs out there, put prices on everything, put a can out there, go. Come back, chairs be gone, money’s in the can.

Ramsey Russell: Harkins is a good helper and looks like he’s working out real good. A godsend you say and maybe okay he’ll carry the torch. You said something to me one time about you wish you had 10 of them, because figured maybe 8 of them, it just wouldn’t work out. They’d lose interest to find something else to do.

Greg Harkins: Well, it’s not that they wouldn’t work out. And it’s not that they wouldn’t be interested in all. It takes a certain somebody to – I mean, you can throw the ball to anybody you want or you can throw the ball to Chucky, because Chucky run with it. I don’t really expect Hodges to be a chairmaker, but he is an artist.

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Greg Harkins: And the things he’s learning from me are really absolute dirt bottom of it. I take a piece of wood and turn it into a magnificent antique or heirloom or whatever you want to call it. But there’s been a lot of people that were so much better than me and so much this and so much that, but you can’t help. I’ve always been a big study of people. One of my favorite things in the world to do is go to New Orleans and sit on a bench. And just watch people walk by and think things about that is the cutest, prettiest little girl, I cannot believe she has ruined herself with all them tattoos and stuff like that. What does her poor daddy think? And people are interesting.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, they are.

Greg Harkins: If you ain’t figured that out yet, people are interesting. And I think the problem now is that more and more people, think that they’re like a movie star that’s going to give a political statement. They think a whole lot more about themselves than they do about that political.

Ramsey Russell: Boy, that’s true.

Greg Harkins: Because probably 95% of them, if you took them back to when they, prior to, they weren’t nothing like the person that they portray to be now. And maybe I’m wrong. I’ve been wrong once. I just want to see what everybody else felt like, what being wrong felt like to people.

Ramsey Russell: It reminds me when you talk about actors and their political activism and center attention, everything else reminds me that back in ancient Rome, which was a very advanced civilization for the time, actors and gladiators, athletes and prostitutes were forbidden to come to public events because society didn’t respect them. They wanted to see them get out there and put their bodies to use and that’s it. But isn’t that something that actors and prostitutes were lumped together and nobody cared nothing about their opinions, didn’t even want them in public. But, boy, how times have changed now.

Greg Harkins: Yeah. Not about the prostitutes, just about the –

Ramsey Russell: Well, just about this celebrity culture now. You know what I’m saying? But anyway, what next for you, Greg? You just back the same day. You’re going to spend the rest of your day just like you did today, turning out rocking chairs.

Greg Harkins: Well, I spent about half day yesterday sleeping.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, yeah.

Greg Harkins: No, I’ve been having some stuff. My mother’s 97. And every once in a while, we run into some kind of bump with her and everybody comes running like that and will. Look I one time, just to give you an idea of what kind of people I came from, I came in from school. Mama had – everybody sat down for dinner. There was one piece of chicken on the plate and I saw her reach over and get it. Then she looked up and saw me. Well, she’d already taken a bite out of the piece of chicken but she laid it back down on the serving platter, made my plate, put the piece of chicken that she had taken a bite out of on my plate. I mean, that’s mamas. That’s what mama’s do.

Ramsey Russell: Folks, thank you all for listening this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, Mr. Greg Harkins. Harkins Rock and Chairs, absolute lost art, lost time right down here in Madison County, Mississippi, see you next time.



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GetDucks.com, your proven source for the very best waterfowl hunting adventures. Argentina, Mexico, 6 whole continents worth. For two decades, we’ve delivered real duck hunts for real duck hunters.

USHuntList.com because the next great hunt is closer than you think. Search our database of proven US and Canadian outfits. Contact them directly with confidence.

Benelli USA Shotguns. Trust is earned. By the numbers, I’ve bagged 121 waterfowl subspecies bagged on 6 continents, 20 countries, 36 US states and growing. I spend up to 225 days per year chasing ducks, geese and swans worldwide, and I don’t use shotgun for the brand name or the cool factor. Y’all know me way better than that. I’ve shot, Benelli Shotguns for over two decades. I continue shooting Benelli shotguns for their simplicity, utter reliability and superior performance. Whether hunting near home or halfway across the world, that’s the stuff that matters.

HuntProof, the premier mobile waterfowl app, is an absolute game changer. Quickly and easily attribute each hunt or scouting report to include automatic weather and pinpoint mapping; summarize waterfowl harvest by season, goose and duck species; share with friends within your network; type a hunt narrative and add photos. Migrational predictor algorithms estimate bird activity and, based on past hunt data will use weather conditions and hunt history to even suggest which blind will likely be most productive!

Inukshuk Professional Dog Food Our beloved retrievers are high-performing athletes that live to recover downed birds regardless of conditions. That’s why Char Dawg is powered by Inukshuk. With up to 720 kcals/ cup, Inukshuk Professional Dog Food is the highest-energy, highest-quality dog food available. Highly digestible, calorie-dense formulas reduce meal size and waste. Loaded with essential omega fatty acids, Inuk-nuk keeps coats shining, joints moving, noses on point. Produced in New Brunswick, Canada, using only best-of-best ingredients, Inukshuk is sold directly to consumers. I’ll feed nothing but Inukshuk. It’s like rocket fuel. The proof is in Char Dawg’s performance.

Tetra Hearing Delivers premium technology that’s specifically calibrated for the users own hearing and is comfortable, giving hunters a natural hearing experience, while still protecting their hearing. Using patent-pending Specialized Target Optimization™ (STO), the world’s first hearing technology designed optimize hearing for hunters in their specific hunting environments. TETRA gives hunters an edge and gives them their edge back. Can you hear me now?! Dang straight I can. Thanks to Tetra Hearing!

Voormi Wool-based technology is engineered to perform. Wool is nature’s miracle fiber. It’s light, wicks moisture, is inherently warm even when wet. It’s comfortable over a wide temperature gradient, naturally anti-microbial, remaining odor free. But Voormi is not your ordinary wool. It’s new breed of proprietary thermal wool takes it next level–it doesn’t itch, is surface-hardened to bead water from shaking duck dogs, and is available in your favorite earth tones and a couple unique concealment patterns. With wool-based solutions at the yarn level, Voormi eliminates the unwordly glow that’s common during low light while wearing synthetics. The high-e hoodie and base layers are personal favorites that I wear worldwide. Voormi’s growing line of innovative of performance products is authenticity with humility. It’s the practical hunting gear that we real duck hunters deserve.

Mojo Outdoors, most recognized name brand decoy number one maker of motion and spinning wing decoys in the world. More than just the best spinning wing decoys on the market, their ever growing product line includes all kinds of cool stuff. Magnetic Pick Stick, Scoot and Shoot Turkey Decoys much, much more. And don’t forget my personal favorite, yes sir, they also make the one – the only – world-famous Spoonzilla. When I pranked Terry Denman in Mexico with a “smiling mallard” nobody ever dreamed it would become the most talked about decoy of the century. I’ve used Mojo decoys worldwide, everywhere I’ve ever duck hunted from Azerbaijan to Argentina. I absolutely never leave home without one. Mojo Outdoors, forever changing the way you hunt ducks.

BOSS Shotshells copper-plated bismuth-tin alloy is the good ol’ days again. Steel shot’s come a long way in the past 30 years, but we’ll never, ever perform like good old fashioned lead. Say goodbye to all that gimmicky high recoil compensation science hype, and hello to superior performance. Know your pattern, take ethical shots, make clean kills. That is the BOSS Way. The good old days are now.

Tom Beckbe The Tom Beckbe lifestyle is timeless, harkening an American era that hunting gear lasted generations. Classic design and rugged materials withstand the elements. The Tensas Jacket is like the one my grandfather wore. Like the one I still wear. Because high-quality Tom Beckbe gear lasts. Forever. For the hunt.

Flashback Decoy by Duck Creek Decoy Works. It almost pains me to tell y’all about Duck Creek Decoy Work’s new Flashback Decoy because in  the words of Flashback Decoy inventor Tyler Baskfield, duck hunting gear really is “an arms race.” At my Mississippi camp, his flashback decoy has been a top-secret weapon among my personal bag of tricks. It behaves exactly like a feeding mallard, making slick-as-glass water roil to life. And now that my secret’s out I’ll tell y’all something else: I’ve got 3 of them.

Ducks Unlimited takes a continental, landscape approach to wetland conservation. Since 1937, DU has conserved almost 15 million acres of waterfowl habitat across North America. While DU works in all 50 states, the organization focuses its efforts and resources on the habitats most beneficial to waterfowl.

It really is Duck Season Somewhere for 365 days. Ramsey Russell’s Duck Season Somewhere podcast is available anywhere you listen to podcasts. Please subscribe, rate and review Duck Season Somewhere podcast. Share your favorite episodes with friends. Business inquiries or comments contact Ramsey Russell at ramsey@getducks.com. And be sure to check out our new GetDucks Shop.  Connect with Ramsey Russell as he chases waterfowl hunting experiences worldwide year-round: Insta @ramseyrussellgetducks, YouTube @DuckSeasonSomewherePodcast,  Facebook @GetDucks