Stoking the fire


| December 2001



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Neil Pope

Oregon blacksmiths history alive in Brooks

Neil Pope looks the part. Broad-shouldered and tall, you can easily imagine him in the classic role of the blacksmith you may have in your mind. That image, he says, is probably wrong.

'To the men who used to do this for a living, this was just like working in a car factory would be today,' he says. 'We add romance to it in our minds.'

A former Nike employee, the Vancouver furniture maker and bronze sculptor has been doing blacksmith work for four years now, starting at Fort Vancouver as a historical re-enactment. 'This is great here,' he says. 'We get a very different crowd.'

Here is the grounds of the Antique Powerland Museum in Brooks, Ore. Founders of the museum built the smithy on the grounds in an old-style, weathere-wood shack, very similar to the style of building once used to historically house blacksmiths. Historical accuracy, though, isn't the point in Brooks, and that's the way Neil likes it. 'At the Fort, you were talking a lot about history, but here, with all these old iron guys, you actually get to talk about the ironwork,' he says. 'I'm interested in the history, but I really just like to talk about the work.'

Like Neil, Dean Moxley likes working on the grounds at Brooks. 'This is one of my favorite spots,' he says. 'When they've got the Steam-Up here and all those one-lungers going with a different voice, you can work with the rhythm of those.

Dean, who lives in Portland, Ore., hasn't been working at black-smithing for very long - only six years. He also got his 'start' at Ft. Vancouver, too, but as a spectator. 'I've always gone over to Ft. Vancouver during the holidays and the whole family - well, me anyway - would spend hours going over and watching the blacksmithing.'