Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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December 26, 2012

W.Va. man's wooden creations a step back in time


"I wouldn't call them toys," he said, smiling and shaking his head. "You can't really play with them."

Except maybe very gently.

Sowards doesn't consider himself a craftsman or an artist.

"I'm more of a jack-of-all-trades, master of none," he said.

But he's always been a handy guy.

"I used to be a shade-tree mechanic," Sowards said. "When they started putting computers in all the cars, that's when I chopped my tree down and called it quits."

Sowards said he's always dabbled with one thing or another. He used to do metalwork, and for 34 years made his living building fiber drums for Sunoco.

"We built them to replace stainless steel drums."

Sowards retired from Sunoco in the late 1990s. In 2001, his wife, Rita, died.

"We were married for 46 years," he said. He remarried a few years later, to a widow who lived nearby.

"I've known Linda since she was 12 or 13 years old," he said. "She lived just right across the way, in this house her father built back in the 1950s."

They'd been friendly for a while, but one night, Sowards decided he didn't feel like cooking and didn't feel like eating alone. He called her up and asked her if she wanted to go get something to eat.

"And we ain't looked back since," he said.

That was nearly 10 years ago.

"It's been just wonderful," Sowards said. "This second-time-around thing, I would never have expected that."

Sowards said Linda has always encouraged him and supported him.

"She's the one who got me into this in the first place," he said.

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