SHINGLE SPRINGS, Calif. — When veterans are issued a medical walking cane, many feel like it comes with a negative stigma. It's a stigma that a Shingle Springs man is trying to get rid of.
At the end of last year, Bob Burrow started carving wooden walking sticks. Burrow uses manzanita branches that look more like a decorative hiking stick than a cane. He got the idea after seeing similar walking sticks at a flea market. "I got to thinking, 'I can do this. I can give them to veterans,'" says Burrow.
The first batch of walking sticks went to friends and family until Burrow met Jim Fowler. "I couldn't do this without Jim," says Burrow. "He helps give them out."
Burrow makes the walking sticks, and Jim Fowler helps hand them out at McClellan Air Base, Mather Hospital, and Citrus Heights Veteran Center. In the past few months, he has distributed about 200 walking sticks simply by walking up and talking to veterans. " A lot of people think, 'I don't need a cane,' and I am not saying you need a cane. These are walking sticks," says Fowler.
The walking sticks come in all shapes and sizes and Fowler has a car salesman type of approach when he shows off the walking sticks craftsmanship. "The people, their first question is how much are they? I say, 'No. Nothing. They are coming from the heart of the man that made them,'" says Fowler.
The walking sticks are free to veterans or family members of veterans. Bob Burrow doesn't really have a background in woodworking, but a recent life-changing event has him exploring new things. "Well... I have cancer. I asked God to give me enough time to make these," says Burrow, who is a veteran himself. He served in the Army in 1952 and 1953.
The walking sticks are made in memory of those who have died, and to honor those who lived. The 88-year-old made a pact with God at the beginning of the year. Slow down the cancer long enough for him to make 200 walking sticks. "God. He's been good. I feel great," says Burrow.
Burrow surpassed the 200 walking sticks. He even ran out of manzanita branches until a kind neighbor dropped off more. "The people that brought them were wonderful. We went and had coffee," says Burrow. With the help of his friend Jim Fowler, Burrow will continue to make walking sticks for as long as he can.