By DAVID GREEN
Most people look at a pile of junk and see just that—a pile of junk.
That’s not how it works for Sam Shibler. He sees things differently.
Sam sees a small scale feed mill. He sees a locomotive just big enough for a child to sit inside. He sees tractors and a lighthouse, tables and benches, a bird house, a barn and a train depot.
Right now he’s trying to see a church.
Over the past dozen years, Sam Shibler has created a miniature village in his home town of Clayton. Spread across the lot next to his woodworking and antique store is an array of small buildings and other creations.
The lot is getting full, but he’s not done yet.
“I’ve got plans for two or three more,” he said. “The next thing…I’ve got a lot of people who want me to make a little church.”
Planning for the church means scouting around for construction material.
“I’m looking at other people’s junk to see what I can do with it,” Sam said. “As you can see, almost everything here is recycled.”
He points to a building that serves as a mock machine shed. This was his first creation. The shell of the building was once an enormous shipping crate from overseas. Sam covered it over, added a door and windows, and finished it off with trim and decorations.
The jail in his little village came from another part of Clayton where it used to serve as a playhouse for kids. His feed mill once was part of a real feed mill. It was the cupola on top of the old Anderson mill in town.
His trading post was part of Clayton’s old slaughterhouse. Mom’s Place was once an old addition on the side of Joe Borck’s house on Tomer Road. A small metal building once functioned as a Consumer Power shed.
His bank was…now Sam is puzzled. The origin of that building is eluding him.
Finally the connection is made.
“It came from Posey Lake off an old cottage,” Sam recalls.
Every building tells a story, and that’s why it would be so difficult to watch one get hauled away down the street.
“At first I was going to sell the buildings, but it’s hard to part with them.”
It’s the little outhouse/storage sheds and the new line of log cabin design outbuildings that he’s selling. Those and the benches, tables, cabinets, houses for birds, bats and butterflies, and all the other myriad creations.
When Sam sees something useful, he doesn’t always know what’s going to become of it.
“Sometimes I’ll look at something for six months and then I’ll say, ‘That’s why I brought it home.’”
And sometimes he thinks he knows what’s coming up, but even he ends up surprised.
“I’ll build a floor and I’ll tell people it’s going to be one thing,” he said. “They’ll come back a week later and it’s something else.”
Other times it’s all too obvious. He once saw an old metal shower and knew he had to have it.
“When I saw that, I just knew it was going to make a good milk truck,” he said.
The truck is now part of his collection, out there near the locomotive and train depot. In Sam’s eye, his lot looked a little empty in the middle so he built a wooden water tower for the locomotive. Right now, he likes that water tower more than anything he’s built.
“It’s the lighthouse and the barn that are drawing the most attention,” Sam said, “and now the log cabins are catching on.”
He’ll keep turning out those cabins, along with the benches and cabinets and bird houses. The love for working with wood must run in his blood.
“I’ve been making stuff ever since I could drive a nail,” he said. “I’m just a nut building some buildings.”– Sept. 18, 2002