An artist with a knife
Where most men see a dilapidated fence post, dying lemon tree branch, or broken pool stick, Don Bean sees his next work of art.
The Montevallo native carves walking sticks as a hobby &8212; using hard work and a little imagination to transform something neglected into a masterpiece.
&8220;I look for something unusual when I start to work,&8221; said Bean. &8220;I guess it&8217;s true what they say: &8216;One man&8217;s trash is another man&8217;s treasure.&8217;&8221;
The 61-year-old said he could care less where his wood comes from as long as it has &8220;character.&8221;
Bean has made canes out of everything from stately Wyoming firs to washed-out Shelby County pine.
&8220;We&8217;ll be driving down the road, and he&8217;ll slam on the brakes to look at a tree limb,&8221; said long-time girlfriend Sheila Glass. &8220;He&8217;s constantly working on something.&8221;
Bean started carving in the early &8217;80s while working as a bridge crane operator for the now defunct ABC Rail in Calera.
&8220;As I got older, I just didn&8217;t like sitting down doing nothing…that&8217;s when I began piddling around,&8221; he said.
As he got more and more skilled, Bean&8217;s creations became more intricate.
&8220;I&8217;d get to looking at them, and they were too plain,&8221; he said. &8220;That&8217;s when I started carving names into them.&8221;
One of Bean&8217;s most time consuming but favorite sticks, details several hundred years of Native American history.
&8220;It&8217;s just beautiful,&8221; said Glass, who is part Cherokee. &8220;It just blows my mind.&8221;
Today, more than 200 custom made canes adorn his home &8212; in varying degrees of completeness. &8220;I&8217;m peculiar. I get stumped on one and will put it aside and go back to another one,&8221; he said.
Bean is still a handyman by profession, working construction jobs around Shelby and Chilton counties. But underneath his trusty overalls and blue dusty ball cap, the West Blocton coal miner&8217;s son, can still identify with many aspiring artists.
Each walking stick requires around 40-60 hours of work, but Bean has trouble selling them for $50, through mostly word-of-mouth advertisement.
&8220;People aren&8217;t willing to pay much for it,&8221; said Bean. &8220;But most artists never make a profit or become famous