Steam engine carved from ebony and ivory.
Nestled in the hills of Ohio lies the small town of Dover. To the average passerby on the interstate, it looks like many other small towns. But those who take the time to stop will see that it is home to an amazing secret.
The story begins with a small boy growing up in the early 1900’s. Too young to take on factory work like his siblings, Ernest “Mooney” Warther helped neighboring farmers herd their cows. One day, when he was five, he found a pocket knife on the ground. A prized possession in those days, he picked up the knife and began to whittle sticks as the cows grazed.
Then one day by chance (or perhaps destiny) Mooney met a hobo. The hobo saw Mooney whittling and handed him a pair of pliers that he had whittled. He then moved on, leaving young Mooney to figure out the puzzle of how he had created the piece. Mooney did, indeed, learn how to whittle out the pliers. And he went on to make it such an art form that one of his plier creations would end up at the World’s Fair, getting the attention of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Mooney often gave newleyweds a plier tree as a wedding gift. It serves as an illustration of family. There are 63 working pairs of pliers here, all carved from one piece of wood. Like a family, there are many branches, but all come together as one.
As Mooney honed his skills, he began carving the history of steam engines out of the materials he had on hand. At the time, that was walnut wood and bones leftover from his wife’s beef stew. Later, he carved using the finest ebony and ivory.
Though he was offered millions of dollars for his work, Mooney chose to live a simple life with his family in the small town where they settled when first married. He was very disciplined with his time. He would arise at 3:00 a.m. daily and work on his carvings from 3:00 a.m. until 8:00 a.m. Then he would go to work to support his family – first at a steel mill and later in the family’s knife-making business, which still exists today. In the afternoon, he would take a nap, finish his work for the day by 3:00 p.m., and spend time with his five children. In those afternoon hours, he created a neighborhood park.
If you visit the museum, you will see an unbelievable amount of incredible work. It is work done with such amazing detail that you will wonder how a person could complete one piece in a lifetime, let alone the volume that is represented there.
There are valuable lessons to be learned from Mr. Warther.
1. As you journey through life, be open to new ideas and experiences.
You never know when one small discovery or meeting will change your life. Had Mooney never found the knife or met the hobo, we would not have these treasures today.
2. Be disciplined with your time.
Five hours a day is enough to become an expert in an area, enough to create a legacy. In fact, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in just a few hours a day.
3. Keep it simple.
We live in a day of lament, where the most common expression is, “I don’t have time.” The problem is that life has become complicated. Mr. Warther purposely kept life simple. This allowed him to focus on the things that mattered most to him.
4. Maintain balance.
If you look at Mr. Warther’s creations, you would think that all he did was carve. But that is not the case. He created a balance of creativity, work, and time with his family. He truly enjoyed life.