Can the owner of pipemaker supply company Vermont Freehand find time to make pipes himself?
by William C. Nelson
If you’re to stand any chance of finding pipeman Steve Norse—of being able to observe him up close where he lives and works—you really have to take a winding road. Dorset, Vermont, is, to understate the case, out of the way. Moreover, you’ll see that a lot of the homes in that region bashfully seclude themselves behind forested buffers. It pays to have good directions in hand.
Driving the Vermont countryside, especially for newcomers, can enchant and seduce, and even muddle one’s sense of time. At once sumptuous and mysteriously insular, Vermont has a way of hiding secrets and treasures in every quadrant of plain sight. Each little side road brings its own distinct excuse to stop and explore, and, for a time, to lose oneself. There are so many splashing, silvery brooks plunging through meadows that you could make a lifelong hobby of learning the names of the rills just in one voting precinct. Cross a covered bridge and stop at a country store and you find welcoming proprietors selling actually useful household goods and local meats and produce, not just trinkets or candy for tourists. A unique charm, at once hypnotic and honest, glimmers throughout the region.
A dozen miles short of the Norse compound, expect the smartphone guiding you to announce, “GPS service is no longer available.” The mapping software freezes. The cell service shows zero bars. It’s a good thing, then, that Norse does give accurate directions. At length, the visitor comes to the correct driveway leading to a resplendent 50-acre estate where, for 18 years, since he was 20 years old, Steve Norse has made a home and put bread on his table.
Norse’s pipemaking speaks for itself: An author-styled pipe he carved last year for the North American Pipe Carving Contest sponsored by the Greater Kansas City Pipe Club was one of seven pipes selected for the final, winning set. We can first home in on the
central Norse story by noting that the winning entry he proffered was the only pipe he carved last year.
And he carved it half-blind. But we’ll get back to that.
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