My old and trusty chainsaw blew its muffler before Christmas. Local shops did not have a replacement in stock, and besides, a new one would be costly. There’s only one junkyard for old saws I know of, and that’s the one belonging to Joey Muise, whose chainsaw and small engine emporium is off the beaten path in the community of Concession, southwest of Digby.
I phoned Joey. “Bring it down,” he said, answering my call. He figured it was likely he had what I needed, as this saw, although 10 or more years old, was a popular model in its day.
On my arrival, Joey was not long replacing the blown muffler with one lifted from a sibling that’d died of another cause. Joey is quick with a wrench and screwdriver, and is so familiar with the task at hand the stories never stop. Good stories about good people and deeds and funny things that happened.
I have thought a lot about this most recent visit to Joey Muise Small Engine and Repair Shop. Coming away with a saw ready to rip and tear was satisfying, for sure. There was and is something more, however, which is hard to put a finger on. I will try, for there is about him a generous and upbeat spirit that draws the positive from his surroundings like iron filings to a magnet.
For background, to call Joey’s collection of old power saws a junkyard is misleading, maybe unfair. Junkyards generally are a mess. The more organized may have wrecked cars and trucks stacked in windrows. These can be a lot of fun for the mechanically inclined – especially when the owner, fully occupied beneath the hood of his latest trove, and asked if he might have a carburetor for a 1963 Dodge, offers a wrench and nods in the likely direction over the sea of old and crumpled iron where one might be found.
This is not Joey’s yard or way. The shop and showroom are brightly lit, orderly, and well stocked with benches and tools for repair and the expected assortment of small engine gear for country living. Departing from the expected is his collection of “wrecks,” which has its own storeroom where broken-down saws and parts of saws are arranged by make and model. His explanation, offered the first time I visited, shed light on Joey’s character. “People get used to a saw. If it breaks down, they may not want a new one. They want the one they know.” That was years ago, and I am putting words in Joey’s mouth. It’s close to what he said. It made sense then and, speaking from personal experience, still does.
There is no junkyard dog on the premises – dogs that, in my experience, have a German Shepherd somewhere way back in their lineage and sport bad hair days resulting from coats perpetually perfused in old grease and oil. They may not bare their teeth, but slink about eying customers with a “just try me” leer.
There is a dog in Joey’s showroom, however – one that has a shiny coat and that never bares its teeth. This is a lifelike wooden statue of a Dachshund sculpted by chainsaw artist Tracie Dugas from Weymouth, posing Joey’s pooch for a model. The statue was a gift in gratitude for Joey having found specialty saw parts Tracie needed to work her magic with pine logs. Call it one of those iron filings radiating around the pole that is Joey Muise.
“There’s no such thing as ‘carving bars,’” Tracie was told at more than one saw shop before landing on Joey’s doorstep. She related that experience recently when I caught up with her at a display of her remarkable work at White Point Beach Resort. Either that or they’d say, “I buy out of the book,” referring to manufacturers’ dealer catalogues that did not feature these items, and leave it at that. “Joey,” she said, “takes the time to talk to you.”
It would seem there are too few chainsaw sculptors to warrant listing their particular needs in a standard catalogue. Undaunted, Joey got on the phone, and before long found those tools required of the carving trade. That was seven or eight years and as many as five new saws ago, Tracie recalls. For Joey it has proven an enjoyable and profitable sideline serving carvers from far and wide – for word soon spread that a shop in the back woods of Clare stocked the small saws, narrow bars, thin chains, and clutches fine power-sculpting requires.
An hour with Joey is tonic for mind and soul. A good portion of my hour of therapy was spent touring his museum alongside and attached to the showroom. It is an old lumber camp towed there one snowy night some years ago, for the purpose of creating a place to gather, enjoy a little social time, and to reminisce about the old days in the lumber woods. Over time, the camp has become treasure-filled with memorabilia. Curator Muise spins tales that tie it together – to a time so different in those parts, and yet not so long ago, that he can’t put names of family and friends and people he knows or knew to the growing collection of old photos, maps, and illustrations.
Vintage power saws nestle at the feet of a late-19th-century kitchen range. One hulk is a two-man model that speaks of mighty trees, and men. The range, by coincidence, was in this very building and spot eons before. Unusually designed, the stove spent a couple of decades or more in another’s hands before finding its way to Graff Brothers Salvage in nearby St. Bernard. Joey sized it up as appropriate for his camp, and only after installation discovered that the stove had come home. Its exact profile appears as a shadow on the smoke-darkened wall against which it obviously stood for many years, many years ago. Further investigation proved the fact.
There are new treasures, too, such as the gift of a woven split ash pack basket from Joey’s friend George Goodin from the Deep Brook area – custom made to comfortably fit its owner’s back. One could carry a sizeable load in that pack, and for hours, without wearing down – so long as one’s back curves just as Joey’s does. Another friend, Michel Thimot from Saulnierville, gave Joey a beautifully crafted split-spruce-root basket.
Treasures, and stories to go with them, find their way into the showroom, including Tracie’s startlingly lifelike Dachshund sitting guard. Across the floor, a thick slab off the stump of a mighty Black spruce leans against the wall. Joey counted 120 growth rings, and he says the log it once supported scaled 940 board feet. “It was on the property of Wayne à Clement à George à Joe Comeau,” he told me later, explaining that there are so many men named Wayne Comeau the Acadian people also use the father’s and grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s name to distinguish one from the other. “So this tree was nurtured for over four generations before it was ready to harvest.”
One final positive note: the tree did not end up chipped for biomass, the unfortunate low-grade fate of trees too large for modern mills “upgraded” to churn out two-by-fours. Instead, it was trucked to the Scott family mill in Barrington (where “modern” equipment may be circa 1950s), likely to be milled into stout, 40-foot timbers which are in demand for the vibrant boat-building trade that serves the in-shore fishery.
Meanwhile, back at the woodpile, time to put my old saw to work. And cherish shorter nights. DvL