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Super Senior: Edmond Menard

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 5:51 PM EDT
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CABOT, Vt. (WCAX) - On a back road in Cabot, Edmond Menard’s world is for the birds.

Outside his house, he keeps feeders for his flying friends. Inside, what’s taking flight is totally in Menard’s hands. “That’s the only part of the tree that I use,” he explained, carving one of his feather-light birds made of freshly cut cedar. “These people die to get these things, the kissing ones.”

Menard calls himself the “Birdman,” producing thousands of these wooden sculptures since the early ’70s. “Just like anything, you learn as you go,” he said.

The 78-year-old says these carvings were his destiny. When he was a teen, a man showed up unexpectedly at his home with something to show him. “When I opened it, he had these fantail doves hitched right to the suitcase,” Menard said.

That man was Chester Nutting. an old-time Vermonter who loved to carve and chew tobacco. “He had a can on the floor and he missed it half the time,” Menard said.

Nutting, though, was not in the best of health. Menard thinks he wanted to pass on his craft. “It’s a good thing for me,” he said. It was also therapy. “I was so shy. I couldn’t even look up at people. I was so shy.”

A trip to a craft show in Boston to sell his early creations boosted his confidence. “They’d never seen anything like this. They bought everything I had,” Menard said.

He knew life down on the farm was not for him. There was tension with his father after he didn’t get permission to cut down cedar trees to make his wooden birds. “I mean, dad had it hard, raising a family and farming. It was hard work. I should have been more open. What are you going to do?” Menard said. The two eventually mended fences.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Does this fit your personality?

Edmond Menard: To a tee. Because it’s so easy, and there’s something about keeping your hands busy, and your mind.

Now, most of Menard’s creations come from his property. “These trees have given me a living,” Menard said. “This actually’s like therapy... I love doing it.”

And that once shy kid has been whittled away through the years by those flocking to see his unique craft. “I’ve met so many people. I’ve met thousands of people,” Menard said. “There’s something about working with your hands.”

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