From the Heart: Rep. Neil Combee Crafts Personalized Walking Sticks

Three years ago, after learning his father was terminally ill, Neil Combee wanted to make him something from the heart. So he crafted his first walking stick out of a nice piece of hickory wood.

It has now become a skill noted by colleagues and is always a way of remembering his father."He was having trouble getting around, but I didn't want to just find him a stick," Rep. Neil Combee said.Instead, he found the perfect piece of wood, shaped it and decorated it. His father, Bo, passed away two years ago from cancer.

Since that first walking stick, Combee, R-Lakeland, has made more than 200 more — all hand-carved, sanded and painted. He has made at least 30 for his fellow Legislators who request them."I am thinking of forming the Walking Stick Caucus, which will come before the Bolo Tie Caucus," he joked, saying he may be the first member of the Legislature to wear a bolo tie in session in perhaps 30 years.

When making the walking stick for his father, Combee was new to the craft and didn't even know it was a craft or skill. It has now become a skill noted by colleagues and is always a way of remembering his father.It is both utilitarian, especially for those who hike and walk or need help, and it is an art form."Mine are just utilitarian," he said.

People who have received them, however, might disagree with Combee's humble opinion of his own skills. In a nine-week session, Combee's walking sticks have helped relieve some of the stress and have presented nice conversation pieces without ideologies or lobbyists' pressure."Mine looks like an axe handle, with a rectangular shape instead of being round," said Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula. "It is decorated with my initials and Florida Southern College colors (red and white). It is a very clever and thoughtful thing for Neil to do." Read more...

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