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- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

Who knew there was a Wyoming, Ontario?
That was just one of the many things I learned over coffee with James Machan, a.k.a. "The Salvage Cowboy". Yes. A cowboy from Wyoming.
Now he's a resident of Owen Sound and part of our rich artist/maker community – with a twist.cowboy

James had a job at Chubb Edwards on 6th Street East, back when the local business had more than five hundred employees. But he was laid off when they were down to fewer than a hundred and maybe that
is just as well for us because he is saving our heritage, one corbel at a time.

Sometimes he cleans up the pieces he finds, or fixes something that is damaged or broken, and sells them through consignment stores like Heartwood Home. Sometimes he holds on to a piece while he researches the skills, or finds a person who has them, to renew or repurpose it the best way he can.

That can mean following passionate carpenters, welders or craftspeople on YouTube – like Alec Steele, a nineteen year-old blacksmith who has over 800,000 followers for his honest exploration into his chosen trade. Or it can mean discovering the local person who can make a dutchman, or Ken at Murray's Tools who knows the technique for bending copper without crimping it, or John Mueller, a really skilled 8numbers2 year-old tinsmith.

tableOne of James' favourite challenges is what he calls his "Road Kill Series". It begins with something totally free – a discarded something. He takes a picture of it where he finds it, and another when it is cleaned up and installed.

In his "salvage kitchen" he gets the pieces together, comes up with a recipe to suit, and mixes the ingredients. Every creation is unique.

In the days when James was renovating an old house in Wiarton, he was saving pieces from the old Lion's Head Hotel. When the Chatsworth arena was closing they had a piano for which they couldn't find a home, and James salvaged the cast iron soundboard. He saved some pieces of the Queen's Hotel and Meg Matthew's brothel from the wrecking ball.

James is gradually, lovingly restoring the1892 home he shares with his wife in Owen Sound. They are both passionate about retaining our local heritage buildings. James is keeping his eye on the 1860s Grey County court house building. If anything, he says, the clay chimney pots must be saved - "they are absolutely irreplaceable."

When we throw something away, says James, "We are losing something that won't come again. At least give someone a chance to give it a new life."

 


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